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.

‘Obvious Child’

Also from Reardon: the editor of cléo has a new issue out, devoted to the subject of labor. Including Sophie Mayer on the feminist notions of work and time that convincingly unite the surprising trio of Potter’s Rage, Hyde’s 52 Tuesdays, and Kopple’s Harlan County USA; Julia Cooper on the promising, amusingly subversive setup and fizzed-out, status-quo ending of Reitman’s Junior; a roundtable on the relatability of Obvious Child; and an interview with Selfish Giant’s Clio Barnard. (“That’s why it was very important to me to keep this connection to Victorian fairy tale. How can it be a fairy tale, a fable, but also be authentic? There’s a gap.”)

“On the surface the tone of these speeches doesn’t seem much different from the platitudes found in Cantonese films of the 1950s, which tended to promote social consciousness more than their luxurious, big-budgeted Mandarin counterparts. But unlike the straightforward, PSA-like melodramas of filmmakers like Ch’un Kim (a Hong Kong film industry veteran who served as Lung’s mentor), the action preceding these sermons is riddled with so many dissonances, that there’s no way for us to feel any sense of complacency or self-satisfaction.” Comparing Patrick Lung Kong to Stanley Kramer is hardly the way to get cinephiles interested; but Andrew Chan goes on to suggest that, at least in his early, influential portraits of disaffected youth and later films dealing with plague and the legacy of Hiroshima that make no effort to contain their hysteria, it’s a short oeuvre well worth exploring. Via Criterion.

James Gray, who’s stayed small but whose films increasingly suggest he knows from dreaming big, has nothing but praise for the necessary excesses of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Via Adam Cook.

Mayo Methot

“Methot was a short and curvy woman who could convincingly play a worn-out, maternal tart at the age of 28. […] Onscreen, she ran the gamut from quivering affront to sodden resignation—poise didn’t seem part of her repertoire.” Phoebe Green and David Cairns steal a few moments from the Lauren Bacall memorials to salute Mayo Methot, her tempestuous predecessor at Bogart’s side and, opposite Carole Lombard in Virtue, “in the pantheon of pre-Code sisterhood, along with Stanwyck and Blondell in Night Nurse.”

So, are David Thomson’s ruminations on left-handedness sincere, a straight-faced putdown of political correctness strangling critics’ ability to discuss actors’ physical characteristics, or another excuse to rhapsodize over Nicole Kidman? Even as a southpaw who’ll admit we look cramped and awkward writing, I’m guessing a little bit of each.

David Bordwell’s attempts to identify a poster hanging at The Magnificent Amberson’s Bijou, the false lead of a Pathé short leading to tentative certainty it’s actually a stage production, involves the type of deep scrutiny only truly trivial matters deserve.

“But the kids I know, I love them, but they’re not mad the way we used to be. They like their parents. They have plenty of money. They seem so unafraid and so un-angry. It makes them very nice people. It doesn’t make for great art. I ask them all the time: ‘Aren’t you mad at anything?’ They look at me like I’m off my rocker.” If there’s every a serious push to get Kelly Reichardt into the mainstream, it seems the biggest resistance would come from the director herself, based on her interview with Xan Brooks.

“John heard what I was working on, and he said, ‘Bo, I want you to do this on piano.’ I said, ‘John, I don’t play piano.’ He said, ‘So learn piano.’ So that’s what I did. Within a week, I had a main theme and a second theme and all that kind of stuff written. And I was terrified. But he liked what it sounded like—like a guy who didn’t know how to play the piano.” John Cassavetes may be the only filmmaker under whom one could have been nudged along from assistant editor to composer, without having proved oneself along the way. As Bo Harwood describes it to Sam Wasson, it was an exhilarating experience, albeit nerve-wracking every step of the way.

Claude Chabrol

“The part of the job that I love the most is being on set. Thanks to the 50 unlucky people that work with me all the time, they make my joy. When I start shooting I am surrounded by these technicians and actors who do nothing but to make me happy and to share my dream. What can I want more?” The Talks releases a 2009 interview with Claude Chabrol that suggests the key to a long, uniformly fine career is doing a job you love; that, and understanding your targets.

Forget the meager box office or right-wingers claiming it as their own; the most distressing news out of The Giver is that Jeff Bridges’s Widelux camera has begun to break down. Could this be the last set of his paradoxically intimate and panoramic set photos?

Adrian Curry gets revenge for the career-long sidelining of his first Hollywood love, cropping a few dozen movie posters to offer only a series of illustrations of Lauren Bacall. You can click through to the full images, if for some reason that’s not enough for you.

Brian G. Hutton


Actor turned director Brian G. Hutton directed two of the biggest action films of the late 1960s, both set in World War II and starring Clint Eastwood: Where Eagles Date (1968), with Eastwood playing sidekick to Richard Burton in a non-stop military thriller from an original Alistair MacLean screenplay, and Kelly’s Heroes (1970), a military heist film with a sprawling cast under the command of Eastwood. He was an actor before stepping behind the camera and he turned his back on both professions after directing the last his nine features, the Frank Sinatra cop drama The First Deadly Sin (1980) and the adventure throwback High Road to China (1983) with Tom Selleck. He was believed to 79 when he passed away this week. Mike Barnes at The Hollywood Reporter.

Don Pardo, who was the voice of Saturday Night Live for 38 seasons and the announcer on the original incarnations of the game shows The Price is Right and Jeopardy!, passed away on Monday at the age of 96. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010. Neal Genzlinger remembers his career for The New York Times.

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: ‘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.

Continue reading at The Herald

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Videophiled Classic: Otar Iosseliani’s ‘Favorites of the Moon’

21 August, 2014 (16:55) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

FavoritesMoonFavorites of the Moon: 30th Anniversary Edition (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD), winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, is a deadpan satire of modern life and social hypocrisy with characters, rich and poor alike, from a lively Paris suburb whose lives criss-cross and tangle with one another.

There’s a pompous police chief who spies on citizens and plays at high society sophistication, a jealous weapons expert who fixes handcuffs for Paris policemen and sells bombs to terrorists when he’s not stalking his girlfriend, a robber teaching his young son the business, a schoolteacher with a streak of anarchy, prostitutes, hobos, and others winding through the stories. Along with the location, the characters are connected by a painting and a set of fine porcelain dishes that were created in the 18th century and are sold, stolen, and otherwise passed around through the comic episodes.

There is no central story. It’s really more of a busy set of actions that wind back around and mirror each other in comic portraits of hypocrisy, and it is practically wordless for most of the running time, with few dialogue scenes and the action playing out as a cheeky silent comedy. It’s directed by Russian ex-patriate filmmaker Otar Iosseliani, who clearly prefers the streetwise criminals to the corrupt rich and middle-class folks, for they at least have no illusions about what they do. Co-writer Gerard Brach was a regular collaborator with Roman Polanski, Jean-Jacques Annaud, and Claude Berri, but this is more reminiscent of the later films of Luis Bunuel: densely-woven, satirical, whimsical, deadpan, and utterly savage in the way it undercuts the pretensions of its characters. The cast is a mix of professionals and non-actors, including the debut of future French screen star Mathieu Amalric.

In French with English subtitles, with commentary by film critic Philip Lopate, who seems to be winging it through the track. Clearly he’s a sharp critic who knows his subject, and he has some interesting insights, but it could have used a little more organization. Also comes with an accompanying booklet with and essay by Giovanni Vimercati.

More classic and cult films on disc at Cinephiled

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Rediscovery: Orson Welles’ ‘Too Much Johnson’

21 August, 2014 (08:19) | by Sean Axmaker, Essays, Orson Welles, Silent Cinema | By: Sean Axmaker

Joseph Cotten channels Harold Lloyd in ‘Too Much Johnson’

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the slapstick stylings of Orson Welles, the boy wonder of Broadway!

Not exactly how we think of Welles, is it? We know he had a rich career both on radio and on the New York stage before he made Citizen Kane, but the few comedies he made were far outnumbered by the dramas and the thrillers and the literary adaptation. Yet after his first attention-getting success with Voodoo Macbeth for the WPA, Welles took a sharp turn to farce with his follow-up, Horse Eats Hat, which also had the honor of presenting Joseph Cotten in his first starring role.

There is no film record of Horse Eats Hat or any of his stage comedies and, though he had developed a few proposals for screen comedies, no producer ever took him up on them. So apart from a few cheeky supporting roles, a couple of TV appearances and fragments from unfinished projects, the record shows Orson Welles as a grand artist of serious subjects and baroque tastes.

That alone is reason enough to hail the discovery, restoration and presentation of the long-thought-lost Too Much Johnson, a tribute to the silent slapstick shorts of Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. It is an unfinished project in its own right but is nonetheless complete enough in this “The Films Reimagined” form to reveal a side of Welles so rarely exhibited to the public. That it was made three years before Citizen Kane makes it an invaluable find, a glimpse of the artist exploring the new medium of film with a natural affinity for the possibilities inherent in cinema. But that’s a matter of historical scholarship. What matters to the rest of us is that Too Much Johnson is funny, clever, cheeky, inventive and genuinely accomplished, which makes it worth watching on its own modest yet playful merits.

Continue reading at Keyframe

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Film Review: ‘Life After Beth’

21 August, 2014 (05:38) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza

It is reassuring to know that even after the zombie plague begins in earnest, a strong vein of Jewish humor will thrive. This is the best news to come out of the superbly titled Life After Beth, a comedy that kneads together the relationship movie with the zombie genre. After opening with a brief glimpse of the title character (Aubrey Plaza) jogging into the woods toward a fateful encounter with a poisonous snake, the movie turns to the grief of Beth’s loved ones. Beth has died, and boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan, from the most recent Spider-Man movie) can’t seem to let go. When she comes back undead—confused, but otherwise energetic enough—they resume their romance. Because Beth’s parents (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon) insist on not telling her about her death, Zach has a difficult time explaining why Beth shouldn’t leave the house much or be seen by people.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘Alive Inside’

21 August, 2014 (05:35) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

‘Alive Inside’

Everything you always suspected about music is true. Scientists can point to the parts of the brain that music stimulates, where our deepest memories and feelings reside. The phenomenon even stretches back to before birth, when the sound of a heartbeat establishes our sensory proclivity toward music. This scientific material is offered in Alive Inside to buttress the rather remarkable anecdotal evidence we see for ourselves onscreen, as the power of music is used to revive the personalities of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett tags along with Dan Cohen, a music-therapy proselytizer (and founder of the nonprofit Music & Memory), as Cohen travels to facilities for people living with dementia.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘If I Stay’

21 August, 2014 (05:30) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Chloë Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley

Young couples in movies are customarily given obstacles to overcome, but If I Stay seems unnecessarily cruel in its dramatic contrivances. Most of the film unfolds in the flashbacks that follow a terrible car accident; all the members of a family have been seriously injured, and our narrator, Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), is in a coma. She’s also walking around the hospital as a sort of astral projection, looking down at her unconscious self and listening to everybody else talking about her. Mia’s a promising cellist, with a shot at attending Juilliard after she graduates from her Portland high school. The only problem is that that would take her away from her boyfriend Adam (Jamie Blackley), the lead singer of a neo-punk band, who plans to keep gigging around Oregon. Because who would want to take a punk band to New York City?

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Videophiled: Jim Jarmusch’s vampire ‘Lovers’ and ‘A Brony Tale’

19 August, 2014 (12:46) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Horror | By: Sean Axmaker

OnlyLoversOnly Lovers Left Alive (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) is the richest film that Jim Jarmusch has made in some time. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are the eternal lovers Eve and Adam, vampire soulmates who have become disenchanted with a world that the zombie inhabitants (their word for humans) are blithely poisoning. They are sophisticates, sensualists, artists, beings who find their greatest pleasure in one another, and Jarmusch suggests that they have evolved to a kind of elemental form, pure beings who revere art and beauty and just happen to need to feed on human blood to survive. The problem is that human blood is also being poisoned, which makes the pure “good stuff” a kind of rare wine that is saved and shared sparingly.

Swinton and Hiddleston bring both a grace and ennui to the screen, suggesting centuries of experience by their very presence, yet the joy they give one another enlivens the mournful tone of their nocturnal existence. In contrast to their languorous sensibilities is Eve’s sister, a wild child played by Mia Wasikowska with an insatiable appetite and an instinct for chaos, while John Hurt is the dying elder, poisoned by the world around him. Read the reviews here.

I did not receive a review copy but the discs should have a behind-the-scenes featurette and deleted and extended scenes.

BronyTaleA Brony Tale (Virgil, DVD, Digital VOD) offers a gentle entry into the very real “Brony” phenomenon: adult fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a group that is overwhelmingly male, heterosexual and unashamed of their love of a cartoon about pastel-colored talking horses designed for little girls. Our guide through this world is Canadian voice actress and singer Ashleigh Ball, who provides the voices of two little ponies in the current incarnation of the series, Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash. “The pervert alarm, for sure, went off in my head,” she says when she first learned about the subculture, and she takes a tour to investigate the phenomenon on her way to Bronycon 2012 in Manhattan, where she’s been invited as a guest of honor.

If you are expecting some kind of freak show, you’ll be in for a surprise. Director Brent Hodge is a friend of Ball and frames the film through her perspective and experience, which works because she’s a sincere, serious, likable young woman who finds that the Brony phenomenon is far more positive and affirming than surface appearances might suggest. The spokesmen for the Bronies (mostly men, which in this case is representative of the culture at large, though a few women are represented as well) make a fine case for themselves and celebrate the values of the series in their own lives. When we get to the Iraq vet and former artist who was lifted out of his depression and inspired to draw again because of his engagement with the series, you don’t feel like making fun of any of these fans anymore. A Brony Tale isn’t deep or probing but neither is it sarcastic or dismissive.

The DVD features director commentary, the featurette “The Many Voices of Ashleigh Ball” (which basically expands a sequence from the film where Ball performs the voices of her various cartoon gigs), a brief photo-shoot and an acoustic performance by Ball, whose band Hey Ocean! provides the film’s soundtrack.

More new releases on disc and digital formats at Cinephiled

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