Videophiled: ‘Night Moves’

2 September, 2014 (18:16) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

NightMovesNight Moves (New Video, Blu-ray, DVD, Cable VOD), the fourth film that New York-based director Kelly Reichardt has made in Oregon, is her most commercial project yet, though you won’t mistake this drama of eco-terrorists who blow a dam on a southern Oregon river for a Hollywood thriller. Reichardt and longtime screenwriting partner Jon Raymond focus on the process and the people, a trio of true-believers who want to make a “statement” and end up killing a camper in the collateral damage.

Jesse Eisenberg is the closest we have to a protagonist, a guy living on a co-op just outside of Ashland. He anchors this activist cell with a restless impatience for the blithe, stoner-like disregard for detail of the group’s combat vet (Peter Sarsgaard) and the new age-y philosophy of trust fund kid Dakota Fanning, the one who unravels with guilt over the camper’s death. They aren’t necessarily likable but they are compelling. The debates over the cost of action and the effectiveness of a destructive statement over productive alternatives are in the margins, present but always framed by the personal. The stakes are real—the opening shot shows the beauty of the Oregon wilderness gouged by a clear-cut patch in the wooded landscape—but so are the costs of action and Night Moves is all about responsibility.

Blu-ray and DVD with no supplements. Also on Cable VOD.

More new releases on disc and digital formats at Cinephiled

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Out of Season: The 19th International San Francisco Film Festival – Take 2

2 September, 2014 (06:14) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Festivals | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally published in Movietone News 46, December 1975]

Mine has been a sheltered existence: I never attended a film festival before. And as a matter of fact I attended only four days of this one. But four more disillusioning and dispiriting days I don’t expect, or want, to experience for quite a while, thank you.

It was bad enough knowing that the Joseph L. Mankiewicz tribute, The Romantic Englishwoman, Les Ordres, Black Moon, the Michael Caine tribute, Conversation Piece, the Louis Malle tribute, Chronicle of the Years of Embers, and Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August—to list them in approximate sequence of anticipatory enthusiasm—would take place before teaching and Film Society commitments permitted us to wing south. The remainder of the program was dominated by unknown and hence unanticipatible quantities, save only for the latest film by the director of The Hireling (which we most wanted to see), a three-hour Soviet WW2 epic by Bondarchuk (which we least wanted to see), a new French film starring Jeanne Moreau (which closed the festival and which, because of return-flight connections, we knew we couldn’t see), and tributes to Gene Hackman, Jane Fonda, and Stanley Donen. Of these last, Hackman and Fonda were two eminently admirable people whose work and ever-emergent identities are so much a part of the contemporary cinematic experience that any summary tribute to either seemed a little inappropriate; but I was perfectly prepared to admit that some tribute designer might very well be able to put the consistently likable creations of director Donen into clearer perspective for me, and besides, the general interruptedness of his career in the late Sixties and early Seventies tended to redouble the justification for a festival salute now that that career seems to be off and running once more. And of course, a film festival is a film festival (isn’t it?), and who knew which of those untried films and filmmakers might be the L’avventura or Viridiana, the Godard or Jancsó, of 1975?

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Out of Season: The 19th International San Francisco Film Festival – Take 1

1 September, 2014 (15:13) | by Peter Hogue, Film Festivals | By: Peter Hogue

[Originally published in Movietone News 46, December 1975]

Beforehand, the 19th San Francisco Film Festival looked less than scintillating. The parts of it that I was able to see were, by most accounts, the best parts, and if that’s so, then the first impression was not entirely wrong. The 1975 edition of the festival wasn’t bad, but … I’m not sure that there were any absolutely first-rate films in the 12-day program. For me, Joseph Losey’s The Romantic Englishwoman, Louis Malle’s Black Moon, and Self Service, a Bruno Bozzetto cartoon, came closest. Lina Wertmüller’s Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August got a much warmer reception than I thought it really deserved (the word-of-mouth consensus seemed to be that this was the Festival’s high point). And Luchino Visconti’s Conversation Piece got a much cooler reception than I thought it deserved, but—given the nature of the film—that was not too surprising.

For me personally, the proceedings were made especially memorable by the presence of J Joseph Mankiewicz as well as by the various contributions of Louis Malle. The Festival’s tribute to Mankiewicz (a string of film clips followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session) ranks with the best of the tributes I’ve seen in other years at San Francisco. And Malle, who made no fewer than three appearances before the public and press, left his mark via both Black Moon and his charmingly perceptive remarks about his own work and others’. But one sign of the Festival’s disappointingly middlebrow direction is that other Festival honorees included Jack Lemmon, Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, Gene Hackman, and Steven Spielberg—all or most of whom are worthy figures, but none of whom has reached a point where a retrospective might really mean something. Lemmon, of course, comes closest to an exception. But Hackman, for example, has been in films for only a little over a decade and Spielberg, as everybody knows, would still be wet behind the ears were he not so precociously “successful.” (Just for the record, Lemmon “in person” is very like the man we know from the movies, while Caine “in person” is quite another fellow altogether.)

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Videophiled Classic: Chaplin at Mutual and 25 Years of Mack Sennett

30 August, 2014 (09:09) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Flicker Alley releases two more collections of classic silent comedies. Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies 1916-1917 (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray+DVD) collects the greatest run of comedy shorts in Chaplin’s career in newly restored and remastered editions, and The Mack Sennett Collection: Vol. One (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray) collects 50 comedies of a variety of lengths (including one feature) from Sennett’s studios, from 1909 to 1933 and his early sound comedies.

MackSennettV1The Mack Sennett Collection: Vol. One is the goldmine here. It’s not that it necessarily features superior work to the Chaplin classics (those Chaplin Mutuals are among the greatest silent comedies ever made) but that it rescues so many films either previously unavailable or only available in compromised or inferior editions and it encompasses so many silent movie greats that began their respective careers in his studios and, in most cases, remained to flourish there.

It opens on Mack Sennett as writer and star of The Curtain Pole (1909), a nonsense comedy that sends Sennett (in heavy make-up and absurdly overdone facial hair) on a quest to replace the title object and ends with him literally gnawing on the pole to get it down to size. D.W. Griffith directs in perfectly professional mode, keeping the absurdities going with all due haste, but Mack Sennett takes the helm for the next five shorts, slowly removing himself from the frame and giving the star parts over to Mabel Normand and Ford Sterling, two of his most reliable stars for the next decade.

This is slapstick at its most basic, all overcharged energy and wild-eyed mania, but Sennett (who eventually leaves directing to others but still writes many of them and produces them all) slowly perfects the genre through the course of the disc, which takes us through the evolution from one-reel comedies to two- and three-reel pictures with slightly more logical plots and creative comic inventions. And they introduce us to the great Sennett stock company: Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chase, Chester Conklin, Al St. John, Mack Swain, Edgar Kennedy, and a young British comic by the name of Charlie Chaplin.

Continue reading at Cinephiled

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of August 29

29 August, 2014 (08:24) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

Miguel Gomes on the set of his film ‘Arabian Nights’

As the title indicates, Arabian Nights—Miguel Gomes’s follow-up to Tabu—doesn’t seem to lack for ambition. Featuring real news stories (researched for the director by a trio of journalists) filtered through the telling by a modern Scheherazade, it looks another dazzling intermingling of Portuguese history and fanciful imagination. Rachel Donadio has a set visit, complete with a colorful photo gallery.

“Noir was in part an expression of disillusionment on the left, as the populist anger and idealism of the Depression years gave way to the Cold War demonization of communism. […] The most subversive aspect of noir is its profound distrust of ambition. Whenever someone in a noir film dreams of a better life, or says, “I just want to be somebody,” you can write his or her epitaph right then and there.” Imogen Sara Smith spins off of a pair of film series to run through a two-part history of noir and the blacklist (part 2 here), particularly the screenwriters who were silenced or forced to work behind fronts for decades. An offense that deserved the witty revenge of Polonsky’s refusal to identify his pseudonymous work, letting history assume the blacklisted writers wrote all the good scripts and none of the bad ones.

“This is a very strange love affair.” “Why?” “Maybe the fact that you don’t love me.” Adrian Martin does a fine job exploring the “extraordinary open[ness]” of Notorious, the way narrative, editing, and mise-en-scène render “the question of point of view…complex, and constantly unsettled by the film itself.” Via Adam Cook.

‘All That Jazz’

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me lay on you a so-so entertainer, not much of a humanitarian, and this cat was never nobody’s friend.” Hilton Als locates the compelling uniqueness of Bob Fosse’s filmmakingAll That Jazz in particular—in his dancer’s interest with the body, finding “the drama…in a step, a look, a gesture.”

“Though the film was funded to be a celebration of Liverpool on the occasion of the city’s status as the European Capital of Culture for 2008, Davies ended up making both a personal film and an occasionally sharp-tongued social critique that didn’t honor a city’s legacy so much as excavate its ghosts, focusing mostly on its working poor.” In an excerpt from his new book on Terence Davies, Michael Koresky looks at how the director’s first “documentary” Of Time and the City refashions a Liverpool unique to Davies’s memories and imagining, “mindscape more than landscape.” Via David Hudson.

David Bordwell adduces several reasons not to take seriously any zeitgeist ruminations of Where We Are Now from the messages playing on movie screens—the most persuasive of which is, considering the many individuals who work on a film and the multitudes who go see it each for their own reasons, what is meant by “we” in the first place?

Chats with Jim Jarmusch, managers who delivered lectures against employee theft then absconded with bags full of laserdiscs, fungal growth in the porn room the size and shape of Alien’s pods. Bedford and Bowery’s Kate Beaudoin, Nicole Disser, Daniel Maurer, and Kirsten O’Regan interview former employees and customers to compile an oral history of Kim’s Video that make it seem equally a you-had-to-be-there wonderland and at one time the thickest infestation of hipsters to be found throughout the five boroughs. Via Movie City News.

Isabelle Huppert in ‘Abuse of Weakness’

“I know only me, so if I project these things onto a fictional character, of course it’s fictional but of course it’s also me. When I’m shooting a film suddenly nothing can forbid me, even shame or shyness, to do what I think is beautiful and ambiguous and has a feeling of humanity. But sometimes when I see my films once they’re finished, I think: ‘Oh, how can I have done that?’” As Catherine Breillat discusses Abuse of Weakness with David Gregory Larson, it’s clear that the stroke that inspired the film didn’t temper one of our most provocative filmmakers one jot. You’d expect no less from a woman who wanted her orthopedic shoes designed in the vein of Cronenberg’s Crash.

“Cable television is the new arthouse, so it’s there, but it’s not the big screen. If people have a big screen at home, great sound, and they turn the lights down and turn their phones off, they can get into the world and have an experience. But most people don’t watch films that way anymore.” Eight years after his last film, David Lynch continues to talk up his other endeavors in a way that only highlights our loss, chatting with Marlow Stern about Transcendental Meditation, Kanye West, and taking a smoke break with Louis C.K. While his interview with Hilarie M. Sheets focuses on his first American museum exhibition, back where it all started for him at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. (“All of Philadelphia had a kind of coal-dust patina and a mood that was just spectacular. There was violence and fear and corruption, insanity, despair, sadness, just in the atmosphere in that city. I loved the people there. All these things, whatever way it was, was my biggest influence.”)

‘The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz,’ poster by Hans Hilmann

“And the landscape itself, I mean, when I saw the film, after it was finished, it suddenly struck me: this is something new. That is, no one has ever shot landscapes in a film and then held and, as it were, caressed them. As if they were precisely characters.” “I think every landscape is a woman, really, but…” “Yes, for you.” A typically heady 1981 interview with Huillet and Straub (no points guessing who’s who in the quotes above) concerning Too Early, Too Late, has been freshly translated by Ben Brewster. Another item spotted by Adam Cook.

With the great German poster artist Hans Hilmann the subject of a London exhibit, The Guardian offers a gallery of his work. All of which you’ve seen before, but none that gets old however many times you encounter it.

Video: Art of the Title compiles some of their favorite credit sequences showing off the “inner workings,” whether mechanical (gears and cogs clanking together in heavy, ponderous lockstep—or occasionally with entrancing, airy grace) or organic (brains, amniotic fluid, and the magnificent, microscopic view of an ice cube that opens Dante’s Innerspace).

Video: For years Stan Brakhage hosted private screenings and discussions of both his films and others in his collection. But invite-only hardly jibed with his demotic, utopian spirit, and beginning in 1993 the weekly salons were made open to the public. Filmmaker and friend Phil Solomon taped Brakhage’s lectures, and as Seventh Art noticed, has been posting excerpts to his Vimeo page. A chance to hear a master discourse and also to encounter the man whom Solomon affectionately calls “our Stan of Boulder, the relaxed, funny, gregarious, loving and generous holder of a shared court.”

William Greaves

Obituary

Documentary filmmaker and producer William Greaves made films for the National Film Board of Canada, the United Nations, the United States Information Agency, and PBS, and directed the theatrical feature The Fighters (1974), about the 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight, and he created and hosted the PBS newsmagazine Black Journal in 1968 (he left in 1970 and it became Tony Brown’s Journal). But today he is curiously enough best known for an experimental feature that he made in 1968 but was effectively unseen for over 20 years. After a few festival screenings, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One finally received a theatrical release in 2005 and was released on disc by Criterion in 2006 along with its sequel, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 ½ (2005). He died at age 87. Mel Watkins remembers his life and legacy at The New York Times.

British actor / director Richard Attenborough, whose screen career spanned over 60 years, passed away this week at the age of 90. He was a young soldier in the David Lean/Noel Coward collaboration In Which We Serve (1942) but made his first splash as the psychopathic gangster Pinky in the 1947 Brighton Rock and was launched internationally as part of the cast of The Great Escape (1963), which led to numerous roles in American and international productions, from The Sand Pebbles (1966) to Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players (1977). Attenborough directed his first film, Oh! What a Lovely War, in 1969 and directed a dozen films in his career, including the epic A Bridge Too Far (1977), Cry Freedom (1987), Chaplin (1992), Shadowlands (1993), and his biggest success, Gandhi (1982), which became an international hit and earned eight Academy Awards, including Best Actor for the then-unknown Ben Kingsley, Best Director and Best Picture. He appeared onscreen less frequently after Gandhi but became familiar to a new generation of filmgoers with Jurassic Park (1993) and Miracle on 34th Street (1994). More from Ronald Bergan and Peter Bradshaw, both writing for The Guardian.

South Africa-born actor Bill Kerr had a lively career on stage and screen in Britain (The Dam Busters, 1955) and in Australia, where he grew up and then returned to live in the final decades of his life, appearing in Gallipoli (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), and The Lighthorsemen (1986) among others. He died this week at the age of 92. More from The West Australian.

Japanese director Chusei Sone apprenticed with Seijun Suzuki and wrote the cult gangster film Branded to Kill (1967) before launching his own directing career, where he became one of the leading directors in the erotic Roman Porno industry, helming the notorious Angel Guts: High School Coed (1978) and Angel Guts: Red Classroom (1979) among the dozens of films he turned out. He passed away at the age of 76. Reported by jiji.com, but no English language obituaries yet.

‘Laggies’

Seattle Screens

SIFF has just announced the line-up for the 2014 Women in Cinema festival, opening on Thursday, September 18 at the Egyptian with the Seattle premiere of Laggies, the last Seattle-shot film from local filmmaker Lynn Shelton, and continuing through September 21 at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Tickets now on sale at the SIFF website, where you can also see the complete schedule.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

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Film Review: ‘The Trip to Italy’

29 August, 2014 (07:51) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan

I’m not sure what the competition is, but I will declare that The Trip to Italy contains the funniest scene ever set at the site of the Pompeii volcanic eruption. Pompeii— not generally associated with comedy— is one stop on the itinerary for Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, the British comedians hitting the road again after 2010’s The Trip. In that film, the two men played “Steve Coogan” and “Rob Brydon,” exaggerated versions of themselves; their journey took them into the north of England, where Coogan was supposed to file a newspaper story about the great restaurants they visited.

This time, Brydon invites Coogan on a similar voyage to Italy. Piling into a proper British Mini Cooper (and lacking musical accompaniment save for a single Alanis Morissette CD), they drive around scenic spots, eat good food and indulge in some extended one-upmanship.

Continue reading at The Herald

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Film Review: ‘A Five Star Life’

28 August, 2014 (05:13) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Margherita Buy

Irene is keen at finding flaws and reluctant to commit to permanence. In that sense, her job couldn’t be more ideal: secret hotel inspector. She travels to first-class resorts around the world, sampling the food, checking the dust on the mantels, rating the efficiency of the staff. Already deep into a stylish middle age, Irene is aware that her status is unusual and perhaps unsustainable. She knows this not so much because she feels great angst about it—by the looks of things, she doesn’t—but because other people keep implying that her nomadic life must be unfulfilling in some essential way.

Irene, played by Margherita Buy, is the protagonist of A Five Star Life, directed and co-written by Maria Sole Tognazzi. (The Italian title is Viaggio Sole, so something like Solo Traveler would’ve been a better English title.)

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘Moebius’

28 August, 2014 (05:09) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Cho Jae-hyun

Ordinarily, one might expect that a total absence of dialogue would be the most distinctive element of a movie made in the 21st century. Rest assured this is not what you will be talking about should you venture out to see Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius, a film that blithely dallies in multiple outrages and borderline-unbearable horrors. The South Korean filmmaker has proved himself adept at projects both delicate (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring) and wild (Pieta), and in either mode he can seem like a scientist demonstrating a preordained theory. His ideas are sharp, but the execution sometimes sterile.

The skill is still on display in Moebius, even if the film’s watchability is a distinct issue.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘The November Man’

28 August, 2014 (05:04) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Olga Kurylenko and Pierce Brosnan

Here we are in Berlin and Belgrade and Lausanne, and there’s Pierce Brosnan running through the streets. We have Russians, secret interrogation chambers, and terrorists. And microfilm! No, wait, that can’t be right—despite the trappings of Cold War espionage, this is a 21st-century movie. So it’s not microfilm, but something downloaded onto a thumb drive, which is much less fun to say than “microfilm.”

The November Man is strong evidence that sometimes a genre needs no excuses. This is not a great movie, nor perhaps even a particularly good one, but as the above litany of component parts suggests, it’s a straight-up spy picture with distinct attractions.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Streamers: See Orson Welles’ ‘Too Much Johnson’ and Amazon’s Third Pilot Season for Free

27 August, 2014 (08:06) | by Sean Axmaker, news, Orson Welles, Silent Cinema, streaming, Television | By: Sean Axmaker

Too Much Johnson, the Orson Welles film (or rather film project) that was long thought lost (the last print was reportedly destroyed in a fire in Welles’ Spanish home in 1970), was found a few years ago and restored. It’s not a feature or even a short, per se, more of an experiment shot to accompany a production of the theater farce “Too Much Johnson,” but at least the first section plays just fine on its own as a tribute to silent slapstick comedy with Joseph Cotten doing Harold Lloyd antics and Buster Keaton chases as a serial philanderer pursued by a jealous husband. The film was unfinished but mostly complete and you can watch both the workprint and a “reimagined” version with the outtakes removed at the National Film Preservation Foundation website. An HD version of both are available through the subscription streaming service Fandor.

I wrote an essay on the film for Keyframe: “This would all be interesting but academic if it wasn’t also entertaining and Too Much Johnson is a hoot. The prologue was designed to open the play, introduce the characters and situations, and set the racing pace for the stage scenes with a wild slapstick chase through the streets of New York to the ship that carries the story to Cuba. It plays just fine on its own (with an assist from intertitles added by NFPF), like an open-ended Mack Sennett farce that races through German Expressionism and Russian Formalism on the way to the docks. The subsequent sequences, both much shorter and apparently incomplete, are not as self-contained or coherent but they do feature some eye-opening moments for Welles fans.”

‘Too Much Johnson’

The third wave of Amazon Prime Instant Video Pilot Season shows will be available to sample on Thursday, August 28. As in previous waves, Amazon has made the pilot episodes of five new shows available to all Amazon customers (you don’t have to be a Prime member to watch them), and they will decide which shows move forward to full series based on audience feedback.

This time through, they have enlisted some interesting directors to create for the small screen. Whit Stillman heads to Paris for The Cosmopolitans, a continental romantic comedy, David Gordon Green (director of Pineapple Express and HBO’s Eastbound and Down) stays home in New Jersey for Red Oaks, a coming-of-age comedy set in 1985 (it’s produced by Steven Soderbergh), and Jay Chandrasekhar offers the sitcom Really, about a tight-knit group of married couples in Chicago. Each of these are in the half-hour format.

There are also two hour-long shows: Marc Forster (World War Z) takes the helm on Hand of God, starring Ron Perlman as a judge of dubious morals who goes vigilante after receiving messages from God, and writer / producer Shaun Cassidy delivers Hysteria, with Mena Suvari as a neurologist faced with virtual virus spread through social media.

More streaming options at Cinephiled

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Videophiled: Emmy-winner ‘The Normal Heart’ on Blu-ray and DVD

26 August, 2014 (16:59) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Television | By: Sean Axmaker

NormalHeartThe Normal Heart (HBO, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD), the made-for-HBO feature based on Larry Kramer’s play and directed for cable by Ryan Murphy, arrives on disc the day after winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. Kramer wrote the play in 1985, based in part on his own experiences as a gay activist in the early years of the AIDS crisis, and it captures an era when thousands of gay men were dying yet the mainstream media shied from reporting on the plague (as it was called then) and government officials would not even say the name AIDS in public. 30 years out of time, it seems more of a polemic than ever but it also captures the fear and fury of the men in the community facing a crisis that even the government won’t acknowledge.

Mark Ruffalo takes the lead as Ned Weeks, a writer and activist that Kramer based on himself. He’s the rabble rouser of the group that he founds in 1981, a guy so angry and confrontational that he’s finally pushed out. But the internal politics reflect the culture at large—many of the most active members of the group (played by Taylor Kitsch, as the photogenic face of the gay men’s health group, Jim Parsons and Joe Mantello, who played Ned in the original stage production) still haven’t come out in public—and the fears that many have of creating a panic that will turn the public against them. Matt Bomer co-stars as Weeks’ boyfriend, a New York Times reporter who also hasn’t come out, and Julia Roberts is apparently the only doctor in New York City who is concerned with the still-unidentified disease. Most of these characters were based on people Kramer knew, friends and family alike, and some of these characters are dead before the film ends in the year 1985. Just like in real life.

It came to HBO after a successful stage revival but 30 years out of time it plays more like a period piece, removed enough from the immediacy of the crisis to really pour on the sense of outrage and fear, something that the earliest films to confront AIDS could never allow themselves to do. That outrage, and the committed performances of the cast, surely helped this feature earn its Emmy last night.

On Blu-ray and DVD with a nine-minute featurette on author Larry Kramer and the autobiographical roots of the original play. It sheds some interesting perspective on the personal dramas explored here. Also available as a Digital purchase and free for subscribers to HBO via Cable On Demand and HBO Go.

More new releases on disc and digital formats at Cinephiled

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Review: Black Christmas

25 August, 2014 (12:04) | by Rick Hermann, Film Reviews | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 45, November 1975]

Black Christmas starts to get interesting in the last two minutes. After a series of killings in a college-town sorority house at the beginning of the Christmas holidays, the supposed murderer, in a scene we don’t actually get to see, has been done in by his own girlfriend and a handy firepoker when she thinks that he’s set on making her his latest victim. The movie is about to end on a shot looking from the hallway of the house into the bedroom where the girl (Olivia Hussey) is sleeping, having been left alone to rest until her parents show up in a few hours. Then, with the recurrence of a few familiarly ominous chords on the soundtrack, the camera begins slowly to pan to the right through the dimly lit hallway, pausing at each doorway where a murder has occurred. So far it’s just a kind of chilly atmospheric effect, prolonging the tone of malaise and spookiness, leaving us slightly off balance even though things have been pretty well wrapped up. But that ain’t all. The camera just keeps on trucking, and we begin to hear the maddened jabberings of the heard-but-not-seen psychotic killer who apparently is still around and who apparently wasn’t Keir Dullea, the boyfriend, after all. The latch on the attic trapdoor springs shut once again (that’s his hideaway), he gently rocks a dead girl—his first victim—who sits wrapped inside a plastic bag on a rocking chair (still we don’t see him), and the final scene of the movie looks at the house from a slightly elevated perspective across the street; a cop stands guard on the front walkway, listening to a phone ring inside. The killer, who made it a habit of saying obscene things over the phone before he murdered someone, still seems to be on the loose. Strange, but it doesn’t really seem to matter much by now.

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Review: Rooster Cogburn

24 August, 2014 (12:28) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally published in Movietone News 45, November 1975]

Rooster Cogburn is a sitting duck for both moviemakers and movie reviewers. Given the prospect of a picture costarring John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn, all Hal Wallis, Stuart Millar & co. had to do was to turn on the cameras and have them pointed in the generally right direction; and all the reviewers have to do is to note that they’ve done it. If you love Wayne and/or Hepburn you certainly won’t cease to love either as a result of this film. If you don’t love them you probably won’t start because of this film. It’s rather sad to see two axioms of the cinema turned into tautologies. For Rooster Cogburn does tend to sit and point and say Aren’t they wonderful?; and even as we admit They are! They are!, we can still fervently wish they’d been given something beautiful to do—which they do beautifully—instead of simply stroked and petted like a couple of senile Beautiful People whose bedtime is drawing nigh while the party threatens to drag on without them.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of August 22

22 August, 2014 (09:11) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

Pedro Almodóvar

“My brother and I have always been fans of B movies. Agustiín would kill to make a women-in-prison film, pack it to the gills with girls of all races, each more deviant than the next. We’d follow the line of Jonathan Demme’s Caged Heat, or the line of films made by Linda Blair after she developed physically. Lots of skin, a large helping of irreverent humor, and very little money, of course.” At Criterion, Pedro Almodóvar relates the inspiration—strictly financial, a cheerfully admitted Cormanesque gambit to reuse an expensive set—behind Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! While Kent Jones and Wes Anderson carry on a conversation about Almodo?var’s “one ongoing movie.” (“Desire rules. Like in Andre? Te?chine?’s movies, which are very different in many ways, although they both love melodrama and Hollywood cinema. Their films are neither heterosexual nor homosexual, they’re just sexual.”)

Mark Asch gives close reading to two disparate scenes—Veidt and Hobson tied up in the basement lair in Contraband, and 35 Shots of Rum’s rapturous bar dance to “Nightshift”—to show how filmmakers (with their respective editing partners John Seabourne and Guy Lecorne) tackle the pure cinema challenge of constructing action to music and wind up with something quintessentially tight and contained (Powell-Pressburger) or diaphanous and unreadable (Denis).

Also at Fandor: Why does Kiva Reardon style her perceptive comments on the fearless eroticism of Trouble Every Day as a schoolchild’s alphabetical primer? If only to get away with C is for Cunnilingus, that’s good enough for me.

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Film Review: ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’

22 August, 2014 (08:30) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Mickey Rourke in ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’

In the hard-boiled narration describing the gnarly nighttime world of Sin City, people are constantly talking about how rough it is and how lethal the people are. They left out one thing: You could also die of boredom here. Or so it seems in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a sequel to the imaginative 2005 film. With its all-digital black-and-white world and retro-film-noir mood no longer a novelty, the second film comes up short in inspiration and originality.

A batch of characters return from the first installment. One is Marv, the granite-faced strongman who idealizes a stripper named Nancy (Jessica Alba, also returning). Marv is played by Mickey Rourke, whose appearance has been freakishly altered by make-up and digital sculpting.

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