Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Way (2012)Sound + Vison 2014

My Way is a very good film about a very good performer, Rebekah Starr , who stepped away from her life in Pennsylvania to travel to Los Angeles in the hope of making a video that will jump start her career into something more. It’s a move that further fractures her broken marriage but which is move that she feels she must make.

As good as the film is, there is a gulf between what the film is being marketed as what the film is in actuality. What I mean by this that the film is being marketed as the story of a woman who is from the wilds of Pennsylvania who chucks it all to go to LA to try and make it big. The reality is quite different since Starr had left PA several years earlier to go to New York. There she worked for a Wall Street firm while making music (to some success) around the city. She eventually returned home to rejoin the family business, and make music (she was good enough that she played as an opener for national acts). The Los Angeles trip was not a blind leap into the void

I mention this because I went into the film expecting this to be the story of a small town girl who decided to chuck it all and try and go and make it big. Seeing that she had a little bit of money (the hotel rooms they stay in are fancy) and a little bit of success before moving back to PA kind of took the edge off things. Yes, I know she had gone as far as she could in Kittanning, but the feeling this is being done as an act of absolute desperation (which several name rock stars talk about in the film), the sense of sink or swim, is nowhere to be found. You know they are good enough to succeed and you know they have famous friends, so where is the sense it’s all or nothing? It comes off as a lark … or what it really is a 90 minute promotional video.

I enjoyed myself but I was never was completely invested, the situations being presented a tad too slickly to have the heart strings tugged or leave one not feeling manipulated.

None of this should be inferred that the film is in anyway bad, it’s not. It’s simply that I wanted a chance to root for an underdog. On the other hand this was good time with a good performer and were I going to the screening this weekend I would line up to get my CDs signed (yea I broke down)

The film plays Saturday August 2nd at 9pm. For tickets and more info go to the Sound + Vision page

Stereo (2014) Fantasia Fest 2014

We don't have to end this with a bloodbath

Eric runs a motorbike shop and spends time with his new girlfriend and her daughter.  However some bad looking guys start coming around saying they know him and wanting him to join their less than savory enterprises.  Sensing danger for himself and those around him Eric finds he has to turn to Henry who has some connection to the bad guys, but that may not be a good idea.

Great looking film is something you must see big. Trust me on this this is gorgeous film. However I'm not going to talk about the look or the craft or the performances, all of which are excellent. Instead I want to talk about the thrills and the suspense and the violence,- God damn this film gets your blood flowing.

This is great little film about where the sins of the past can kill not only you but everyone around you. I'm not giving anything away to say that Eric is not who he seems to be, and he is quite capable of taking care of himself...with a deadly ability that is truly frightening. Actually this is a film that manages to make the violence something that amazes and something that truly sickens (in the right way).  You fear what you're going to see next because not only will it probably badly affect some one we care for, but it will also be really unpleasant to watch. I groaned at some of the beatings.

Even before we get to the violence this film cranks up the suspense. The film sets up Eric and his family that we really like them even before anyone bad shows up. We don't want anything to happen, but we know it will because that's the sort of film it is. The question is how bad is it going to get? I think I've answered that.

I really was impressed by this film. Fifteen minutes in and already I'm trying to work out who I want to spring this film on. Films this good have to be shared with as many people as possible. Its also the sort of film you'll want to add to your collection...well maybe not you but most definitely me.

This is a super super film. Its a film that is even better than what I heard about it from the festival circuit.

See this film ASAP. Trust me you'll thank me.

For more details and tickets go to the film's Festival page here

Turbo (2013)

My four year old niece loved Turbo

The four year old of a co-worker loved Turbo.

Most kids I know loved Turbo.

Most parents I know loved that their kids loved Turbo.

I feel like a Grinch for not liking Turbo. No wait make that I feel bad for not loving Turbo.

Turbo is the story of a snail who dreams of becoming a racer and going fast. He dreams that someday he’ll be a great racer. When circumstance douses him with a combination of chemicals including a healthy dose of nitrous oxide he’s given the ability to out run pretty much anything. Through circumstances and a nice guy who wants to make his and his brothers Taco stand successful he ends up racing in the Indy 500.

It’s a sweet story without the typical current cultural references and smart ass remarks. This is a rare thing in modern American big studio animation a story that is all about the characters and story. It’s a sweet little story about following your dreams no matter where they take you and no matter who tells you you can’t. It’s a throwback to old school Hollywood tales and the sort of films they don’t make any more…

… and it bored me to tears.

Yea I know its everything I rant against in American animation and they’ve turned out a really bland film that I can’t recommend to anyone over over, say, the age of 6.

What happened? This is the sort of film I’ve been calling for for years and when it comes it disappoints. Why?

I’m guessing that in reducing the film down to its most basic elements they didn’t give themselves all that much to work with. There are no subplots, simply the story of Turbo. While its good and uplifting, its too cliché for anyone over a certain age and without subplots the pacing is snail like (I’m sorry).

Its not bad, but at 96 minutes the film is wildly over long

On the other hand my niece loved it and I’ve heard reports of kids screaming and cheering in the theaters where this played. For small kids give it a shot, but for big people give it a pass.

A Town Called Panic shorts- maybe at Fantasia 2014

When I originally checked the listing of titles at Fantasia there was listed a good number Town Called Panic shorts. When I went back to put this piece together the only one still listed was The Christmas Log which I reviewed back during the New York  International Children's Film Festival.

Since I watched the shorts and started the piece I figured even if they aren't running the films I'll run the piece because they are all laugh out loud funny and things you'll want to track down

Fox Hunt
Cowboy and Indian go Fox hunting.When Cowboy takes Indian's fox mayhem results.

Indian Treasure
Cowboy finds a treasure map under Indian's bed and decides to find the loot for himself

Something Cowboy turns him into a raging red Hulk like beast and other things.

Easy Chair
Huge crate arrives for Horse. Cowboy conspires to open it and see whats inside while Indian and Horse go off to find some eggs

Deranged little film, even by Town Called Panic standards has Horse bake a cake before bed, Indian and Cowboy attempt to get a piece during the night and what happens with a pissed off bear.Out there, really out there

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For Those About to Rock (2014) Sound+Vision 2014

This documentary on the duo Rodrigo y Gabriela was one of the must sees at Sound + Vision. I had stumbled upon the film at the Festival Scope service and got excited at the prospect of seeing it on a big screen with big sound.  When the film was announced as part of the festival I was absolutely thrilled.

Now that I've seen it I find I'm torn about how to report on the film.

Beginning with a history of rock in Mexico the film then shifts gears into the story of long time friends Rodrigo and Gabriela who wanted to be metal rockers and instead became rockers of another kind.

When the the film gets to the music this film rocks. Its a glorious celebration of Rodrigo y Gabriela and the music they play. When its firing on all cylinders you'll want to get to get up out of your seat and dance.

The trouble is that this film has long dry spells of talking heads. I think something like 15 minutes go by before we hear any music from the duo, and that is some of their heavy metal music.  After that we only hear snippets until well into the second half when we finally get some extended performances. Those are amazing those are the reason to see the film.

Actually if you're a fan of the duo the other reason to go is this film will tell you pretty much everything you wanted to know about them but were afraid to ask.  With all the talk in the film I don't think there is anything about them that I don't know. I don't think there is anything left to tell.

Should you see the film?

If you're a big fan most definitely. There is a lot to love. If you're a casual fan, or one that just wants the music, I'd say give it a shot, just be aware there is a lot of talk.

The film plays tomorrow night and August 6th. For more info and tickets go here.

Kung Fu Elliot (2014) Fantasia 2014

I'm trying to sort out what the hell this film is.

It is really not what it appears to be at the start- a light hearted portrait of Elliot Scott, a Canadian martial arts champion who wants to become the first Canadian action star. He's attempting to do this by making ultra low budget films. As the film starts he's made two and we watch as he tries to put his third, Blood Fight, together. Well it is about that, but at a certain point things go off in a different direction. The change happens once the spot light is thrown on Elliot and his band and as a result this isn't what you think its going to be in the first moments, it becomes something very darker, and very troubling.

This is one weird freaking story. It's so unexpected that I thought the whole thing must be some grand joke.

Apparently not.

As things go on you realize that what you thought was going to be a nice look at a guy who makes cheezy martial arts films is really about a guy who is more than a bit off. This is not a film where the shooting went smoothly, things happened and to be perfectly honest I have no idea how or why some people involved with this film allowed the footage to be used since some of it is not flattering. Personalities change, relationships fragment, inner selves are revealed.

I'm intentionally not going to say too much more since you're going to want to get the full smack down this film delivers by not knowing where this goes. Besides, I tried to watch this a second time so I could take better notes and to see early on if I could see the seeds of what happens later, but I could only get so far in before I decided I just didn't want to go there least for a while.

Is it good? If you think any film that provokes a reaction is good then it is. If you think a film that haunts your dreams is good then it's good.Of course it's good, its actually great. Its a film that will have to talking to your friends about for weeks afterward. The bitch of seeing this before most of my friends is that I have no one to talk to about it with. This is film that is full of things to ponder and discuss not the least of which it the drive for fame.

Should you see it- oh hell yea. You'll be talking about this film for weeks.

Kung Fu Elliot plays tonight at Fantasia. For tickets and details check out the film's Festival web page.

A few words on Time Lapse (2014) Fantasia Fest 2014

Three friends who live and work in an apartment complex discover a machine that is capable of taking pictures 24 hours in advance in the apartment of a missing resident. Deducing that they maybe on to something they begin to use the machine to make some extra money. Unfortunately this attracts the attention of some people who want to know how they can win so much. It also begins to reveal some things that some people wanted to keep concealed.

Solid B thriller works pretty much from start to finish so long as you take it on it's own terms t(Just don't over think things).  In all honesty the only thing that I found really wrong is that at 103 minutes the film is much too long. This is an old school Outer Limits episode super sized.  That doesn't mean it's bad, it simply means that by the half way point I was kind of ready for something else. Still it's nice to see a "time travel" film well done.

Both screenings both tonight and on August 2nd are sold out. For more information check the film's webpage

Monsters University (2013)

Prequel to the classic Pixar film is an amusing follow up that proves that Pixar can get sequels right when they aren't a Toy Story one.

The film is the story of the young years of Mike and Sully. Largely focusing n them as they go to Monsters U and eventually end up working at Monsters Inc, the film focuses on how Mike and Sully have to work together in order to survive college. Its an amusing romp that hits every single solitary college cliche and trope you can imagine short of naked co-eds.

Unfortunately while it is a good film it's not great. The film has two problems that prevent it from being great on it's own terms.

First the film is full of references to not only other films (Animal Hose is referenced). Its so full of references that anyone over the age of say ten is going to be able to know where parts of the film were lifted whole cloth from.  Additionally the film's designs are also full of riffs on other monsters. The film is full of Muppet designs and other creatures. Yea I know there is only so many cute creatures you can do but this is a little excessive.

The other problem is that no matter what happens you know its going to be alright since this is a prequel and we know Mike and Sully are destined for greatness....We know they are going to Monsters Inc. How can you fear for your leads when you know where it all ends. (And never mind that the cliches make it even less tense)

This could have and should have been a great film, but the makers went safe and easy and made a good one instead. Bitching aside I do like the film, but at the same time like most sequels and prequels and all of that this film isn't something we really needed, even if Pixar wanted the certainty of a cash payday.

Worth a look but I'd wait for cable.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two from SOUND + VISION : Flashback Memories 3D (2012) and Shield and Spear (2014)

Two capsule reviews for films playing at Lincoln Center's SOUND + VISION series which starts Friday.

Portrait of didgeridoo player Goma, who lost his memory in a car accident in 2009. The film consists of a performance of Goma and his band  while behind them we watch clips of his life and career. Lines of text fill in details and sections of Goma's and his wives post accident journals.

While the film was put together by Tetsuaki Matsue who made one of the greatest music films ever made LIVE TAPE this just doesn't work. The film comes across as a 1960's throw back to where TV shows had just gotten Chromakey and  would put video behind some psychedelic band. It doesn't help  that Goma essentially stands center stage as he and his percussion band plays. Its not bad but after 72 minutes it grows wearying. Personally you could put on one of Goma's CDs, look at a picture of his and read his biography to the same effect.

That said the screening on Friday will have Goma in attendance playing and doing a Q&A and that is worth the admission price more than the film.

For details and tickets go here.

Must see documentary about the artistic community in South Africa after the end of apartheid and how despite  a constitutional right to free expression the powers that be are taking steps to close down free speech and opposition.

Framed around what happened when artist Brett Murray painted a picture of  South African President Jacob Zumba, a man caught in a sex scandal, with his penis hanging out and spins it off to show how artists are trying to battle to keep South Africa free and not under tight-fisted control of the ANC who opposed the painting and oppose other human rights issues (the right to be gay or lesbian).

The film is a wonderfully alive portrait of various artists, musicians and activists in South Africa. who are working to keep the country free. Its a film that explores the questions of race, politics and social issues. There is a ton to say about the film, but to be honest I kind of stopped taking notes during the press screening. I just was moved along by the film.  I want to write the film up down the road when I can sit with it and really watch it a couple more times so I can really do it justice.

A wonderful film and a must see when it plays Tuesday August 5. For more information and tickets go here.

The Search for Weng Weng (2013) Fantasia Fest 2014

Director Andrew Leavold went on a search for the real story behind Weng Weng, who is listed as the shortest leading man in movie history (2 foot 9 inches). The obsession was born as the result of director Andrew Leavold seeing For Your Height Only, a film where Weng Weng played a smaller version of James Bond. The search lasted 7 years (though at another point Leavold mentions looking for someone for ten years) and turned up things that no one expected to find.

Weng Weng was the product of the film industry in the Philippines in the late 1970's and 80's. During the peak years the industry was turning out over 300 films a year. Films came and went and Weng Weng worked for a small independent producer with the result that when the heyday was over he and his films faded into obscurity-except for the few that escaped the country, with the result that most people int the Philipines don't know who he was. He came and went despite becoming an international celebrity of sorts.

This is a great film. While on some level the film would seem to appeal only to those with in an interest in weird B-films, in reality a great deal more.Yes the life and times of Weng Weng  are a blast and the search to find out about him is compelling  but there is so much more here.

What makes this film so good is that despite being about the search for one man, the film encompasses so much more, the film is a cultural history of the Philippines and of the film industry. Starting with a look at freak shows and moving on to the history of films and filmmaking in the country, especially in the wake of
Apocalypse Now making the film a viable place to shoot a movie cheaply. It also acts as a kind of memorial to an industry where 80% of it's output has turned to vinegar or landfill.

Think of the film as a perfect companion to Machete Maidens Unleashed since it takes a look at things from a personal level.

A must see for any film lover who truly loves film.

The film plays at Fantasia tonight and  again on August 4th. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival webpage here.

Dealer (2014) Fantasia 2014

Even if you hold in your shit you’re still going to stain your pants

Dealer is over whelming. I mean that in a good way.

It’s a nonstop sensory overloaded film. It’s a film in constant motion, rapid cuts, tracking shots, flashy visuals, with narration going on at the same time as dialog. It’s a film that forces you to engage with it on any number of levels with the result it sucks you in and drags you along.

The film tells you the story of a dealer looking to get enough money so that he can pick up and move to Australia with his daughter. He’s close to reaching that goal, but not close enough. Then a client asks him to get him a kilo of cocaine within 24 hours (Its fashion week, he wants it for the models) and our anti-hero senses he can make his dream a reality sooner than later. That’s when things go sideways.

I’m not going to say that there is anything new about the plot. It’s something we’ve seen any number of times before. On the other hand the craft of the film the visuals, the pacing, the music and the sense of reality are clearly the work of someone the film world is going to have to sit up and notice.

Jean Luc Herbulot‘s film will leave you exhausted. Running a scant 75 minutes, this film packs the punch of a much longer film. Actually the film runs just long enough that you’re in no danger of your brain exploding. A wild mix of hyper-visuals, booming sound track and constant motion this is a film that looks like it was made by an ADD afflicted chihuahua in quadruple espresso. It walks the line of being almost too much but never crosses over with the result you’re left feeling exhilarated instead of exhausted.

If you want to know what a cinematic calling card looks like this is it.

I have no idea if this is a good film or a bad film all I know is that having been exposed to it’s cinematic delights I want to experience it again…and I want to see what ever director Herbulot has cooking up next.

If you love movies you have to see this.

The film World Premieres tonight at Fantasia. For more information and tickets go to the film’s festival web page.

Epic (2013)

Loosely based on William Joyce's The Leafmen picture book, Epic tells the story of what happens on the one day in a a hundred when a new Queen of the Forest is to be picked. The forces of darkness & decay (the Boggins) know its coming and they take steps to steal the pod containing the new Queen so she can be made to be under their control. Into this mess comes human MK, a girl mourning the loss of her mother who has been sent to live her dad. Her dad lives in the woods and is a crazy scientist who believes that there are tiny beings living in the forest. MK doesn't believe him, until of course she is shrunk and ends up joining the fight to keep the pod with the new queen safe.

As an action adventure the film isn't bad. Its the well worn place of having to leave your place in order to find it. The good guys are good. The bad guys are bad and there is plenty of action to keep even most crazed action fan happy.

I am disappointed that a film with a young lady in the lead gives her almost nothing to do in the way of fighting. She does move the plot along and solve problems, but at the same time she leaves the heavy lifting to the guys, which really isn't fair. Girls can kick ass too.

Its a good film. I liked it. you should see it. As a film I don't have that much more to say about it.

On the other hand as a representation as to the state of animation in America today it's both everything that is good and bad.

First off the film is shows what most big animation studios do when they get a script based on a children's book, they take a small story and make it into something blander. While I know the film does have William Joyce involved (MK is named for Joyce's daughter) it also has been so exploded that the heart that beats in all Joyce's work is gone. Yes I know that the source is episodic, but at the same time the story they have replaced it with is rote and cliche.

For me the only thing that has survived from the book is the Leaf men and the Joyce designs. Yes I'm happy to see any Joyce on the big screen but at the same time I wish they could have kept his story telling.

What kills me concerning most feature animation these days is that the filmmakers seem more and more are relying on a check list of things you must have to make a successful animated film. Its a check list that becomes more apparent when you watch this film with another recent Joyce animated film, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS which I reviewed yesterday. GUARDIANS avoids most of the checklist where EPIC bangs it down the line.

The first thing on the check list is you need smart ass remarks. EPIC is full of characters cracking wise with each other. Its as if you need to have quotable dialog more than dialog that drives the plot forward. (GUARDIANS has pithy lines but not at a rapid fire rate or at the expense of the plot)

I hate that these days there is a thought that you need goofy characters. You can't just have heroes and villains and other people you need to have crazy characters to keep things lively. In EPIC you have the slugs. While there is nothing wrong with the inclusion of slugs their wild behavior is often out of place. In a film like EPIC the craziness under cuts the danger.

You also have passing, meaningless references to adult things in EPIC we have MK talking about her dealing with the death of her mom. From the indication in the film it was only a short time before, but yet she is perky and upbeat. MK references the five stages of grief but outside of that there is never another real reference to the death of her mom, except by her dad (and what is up with that the way he behaves belies the fact that his ex-wife has died. One would almost think that he didn't know- actually the whole death thing is odd since MK arrives with no stuff)

And if you look at the animation you see it's on odd mix of beautiful detailed backgrounds and weak character animation. The characters almost seem like a bit more detailed TV animation. It would be fin except that in GUARDIANS you have sense that they really spent time animating all of the characters to make them look special on the big screen, here they could have come from almost any other animated film.

I probably shouldn't pick on EPIC. Its not a bad film by any means, its a good film, it's just not as great as its trying to be...on the other hand we should be grateful its reaching to be something more.

Definitely worth seeing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Interview with Frauke Finsterwalder and Christian Kracht on FINSTERWORLD

NOT Frauke Finsterwald and Christian Kracht
Back in May, I was able to speak with Frauke Finsterwalder, director of FINSTERWORLD, and Christian Kracht, with whom she cowrote the film, when it was shown in New York City during the KINO Festival of German Films. The exquisitely crafted film is filled with richly detailed characters and an intriguing narrative structure, making a conversation about the film with its creators an immediately enticing prospect.

While preparing for a discussion with the pair, I  made a glaring oversight, failing to learn the ever so slightly significant the detail that the two are husband and wife. This made for some unexpected but interesting turns in our conversation. I asked about this relatively unique working relation and how it may have come to affect the film. We also discussed the process of constructing the narrative and its intriguing set of characters, who Frauke and Christian have clearly given a lot of consideration both during and after the completion of the film, and how they are used to represent themes of the story and also possibly the creators of the film themselves.

MondoCurry: Are there parallels between being marriage partners and writing a film together?

(Frauke Finsterwalder) Yeah, I think for a successful marriage you need to have teamwork. And maybe for writing as well you need that. I think we have a good marriage, and maybe we are good writing partners as well.  You need to trust the people you work with. For me as a director, that’s true of anyone you work with, not just the writer. Who would I trust more than my husband? There’s no showing off the way you might do with a stranger.

(Christian Kracht) There are dubious ways of manipulation that come up when working with people you’re not related to. (Working with someone you’re married to), you’re actually more centered.

MC: You’ve worked primarily in making documentaries before. Was FINSTERWORLD a big departure from your previous work?

(FF) In terms of the subject, not really. It’s something we have both dealt with in a lot of our previous works. For me, the whole process of making a film with actors and a big team instead of only 3 people, was very different but I enjoyed it a lot.

MC: One of the character in the movie is a documentary filmmaker….Did this character represent aspects of your own life?

(FF) The character had nothing to do with me personally. Perhaps I wanted people to ask about this, as we share a similar name. Maybe with this character I was making fun of problems that a documentary filmmaker has. They cannot control what people do in front of the camera. They will not do what you tell them to do in front of the camera. They will just be themselves. But she is really an ignorant person. If we had a lot in common, I couldn’t do films. Nobody would want to work with me.

(CK) Maybe creating this character was like exorcising a part of you…a part of you that you’d like to get away from…because now you like to create fiction…

(FF) Yeah, like I had to get it out of my system. But I’ve never been like that.

(CK) I’m more like that.

(FF) I’m more like Claude, the pedicurist. I’m a very sociable person that likes to take care of others.

NOT Frauke Finsterwalder
MC: The title is interesting in that it is so similar to your name. Is there a playfulness to coming up with this title

(FF) We decided in the early stages it would be like a fairy tale, although somehow connected to Germany and within a modern society in general. The title tells you that you’ll be going on a journey into a certain world. It could be mine, the director’s world…Or it could just be ‘finster’ meaning dark world. ‘Finster’ means dark in German. There are all these references, like the children reading ‘Ghost World,’ the comic book. I kind of stole from that.

MC: One of your previous documentaries seemed to be about people doing something unusual in the public eye. FINSTERWORLD also has characters with attributes that would be considered out of the norm by many standards, Are you drawn to dealing with fringe people or characters in your work?

(FF) I have to say the (subjects of my first documentary) building the pyramid were quite normal. They just wanted to make money. Some were business people, some were artists who thought it would be a funny idea. They were normal and just used this shocking idea to get attention for their cause. Or just to get attention in general. So, That film dealt more with another subject we talked about in Finsterworld which is daily facism and how power structures work among people…They went into a small village and the village people were not happy about it. And then this whole struggle began.

(CK) I think one of the themes that you like to think about is humiliation. You had hierarchical structures where people placed themselves within the structure and humiliate others…

(FF) And that’s what happens in Finsterworld. It starts right at the beginning when the policeman and the pedicurist meet. There are all these moments about humiliation. Even in the film before this…That had a large influence on this film actually. That was a film about a summer camp. There is a character that really gets bullied. It’s a really sad, terrible film actually. That film has a really big influence on what happens to the young people in Finsterworld.   

(FF) It was a documentary but a lot of people thought it was fiction. I got so close to the young people at the camp, nobody could believe they allowed us to film. The way I edited and used music made it seem very much like a fiction film.

MC: What was it like now that you could make up characters and control what they do in order to tell your story?

(FF) It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It kind of just had to be the way it is now. It’s hard to say ‘why.’ It wasn’t that we just sat down and said ok here are 12 characters and let’s plot it out with a flip chart…

(CK) The process of writing was completely intuitive. We weren’t going on a trajectory that would then lead us somewhere. We would just start and then see what happened. We would sometimes speak to each other as these characters, like in restaurants. There really wasn’t a structure we were following.

(FF) We were thinking a lot about a classical tragedy, for example. And one big thing in that is there is someone who hasn’t done anything, but through coincidence or fate becomes guilty. So that was something we required.  We never really thought about it but somehow it had to be in the structure of this film about darkness. A person who had to kill happens to be the only innocent person. That’s something that is a very classical theme in tragedy. If you read enough books and think about books, there is something that just had to be like that.

MC: When writing the characters, did you start out with a central one and branch out from there? It seems like there is equal significance among all of them.

(FF) Claude was the one we invented first but it was clear he wouldn’t be the only one. Then we came up with the youngsters who were visiting the concentration camp. It was very clear that their story was going to be a part of it.

The working title for the film was ‘Autobahn.’ We started out thinking we’d have this very German thing where everyone could drive without a speed limit. It looks like a skeleton. We don’t have a lot of untouched nature like here in the United States. It’s a tiny country and everyone drives a car. So we would have all these characters driving on the highway. But it was very clear to me that this would be horrible because you don’t want to see people just driving cars all the time. Especially on the not so beautiful Autobahn. Also we would’ve never been able to shoot that film because the automobile industry in Germany is so powerful. It’s really hard to get streets cleared for film shoots. So I was very glad we didn’t have that many scenes in the car.. That’s where the idea for the couple, the parents of Maximillian, came into being, though.  

NOT Christian Kracht and Frauke Finsterwalder
(CK) It’s very odd because you rent this car and you get in the passing lane and you’re going so fast. You get in this adrenaline zone and in your brain, you don’t even realize you’re going that fast. It’s like a rocket…

(FF) That was also a concept of the film that we were coming up with. We thought of  the idea of people being alone in this bubble and very lonely. And then the bubble would crack and something would enter the bubble and catastrophe would happen, or maybe not… For Klaude something wonderful happens…There are characters that get what they wanted while others get punished. Others get away with things they have done.

MC: It’s interesting that you decided to make this film while living away from Germany. Was making a film about German society something you’d long had an interest in doing?

(FF) (Christian) has lived there for very short periods but has been away more than living there. At the point of writing the film, I’d been away for two years. Actually after doing this pyramid film I’d really had enough of Germany and couldn’t imagine doing another film with East Germans. When we came back I felt like my first fiction film should deal with it because it’s part of me and my history. Even if I live in other countries it will always be a part of me. So is the language. When I first confronted Christian with this, he wasn’t very happy because we had planned to do a film in Argentina, where we lived at that time. I said I’m sorry but I’m afraid we have to do a film about Germany. I’m not done with Germany. Christian was very angry at first. When we started talking about it, we both really thought it was a good idea. Maybe that’s why I really had to do a fiction film where I could control the story in order to say what I wanted to say. Now I can move on. I’m definitely not going to do another film about Germany.

MC: Can you describe your relationship to the characters now that the story is finished?

(CK) Since we spent some time with these characters, they are part of us. A lot of their idiosyncracies are lifted from parts of our very own feelings. Sometimes even though this film is now finished, we still talk to each other as these characters sometimes. We catch ourselves. It’s interesting how they live on in our relationship.

(FF) I’ve watched the film hundreds of time since it was finished. I actually enjoy watching it again because every time there is another character whom I draw more attention to. And I like all of them. And we have discussed that maybe we would make another film with two of them. But now I’ve decided I’d rather do something else. It could be possible though, to have a little TV series. For example Claude going on a cruise ship…Or we were thinking about putting the yuppie couple into a situation where they go to Nepal or some third world country, looking for enlightenment…it would be very funny, but maybe someone else has to do it.

IF YOU MEET KLAUS KINSKI, PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH July 31 to August 10 at Anthology Film Archives

Anthology archives is doing a retrospective of Klaus Kinski films starting Thursday.

I'm a huge fan of Kinski, despite recent revelations about his personal life. He was a mad man who, as an actor, left an indelible mark on cinema. And when I say he was mad I mean it, supposedly the reason he was in so many movies was that he could only take small roles because producers could only take him for so long.

The series at Anthology is a winner that largely has some of Kinski's best films outside of Werner Herzog and the long running Edgar Wallace series in Germany.

We've already reviewed three of the films:
Jesus Christ Saviour (If you see one film in the series see this one)
If You Meet Sartana Pray For Your Death
Bullet For The General

And a bunch that we may or may not get to reviewing:
Paganini is Kinski's directorial debut. Its an insane look at the great violinist. I know many people love the film but I'm conflicted since it has moments but its self indulgent. That said if you're a fan and you've never seen it do so.

Crawlspace- mad slasher in the title location film is a good little thriller. One of the screenings will have I believe the director in attendance.

My Best Friend- Werner Herzog's look at Kinski and his relationship with him. If you've never seen it its a must see

Creature with a Blue Hand- One of the Edgar Wallace series about a killer with a blue hand. Its not the best in the series but it does star Kinski. Worth a shot..

Venom-A combination of a kid picking up the wrong snake for his collection story collides with a kidnapping gone awry and you have a tense thriller that scared the crap out of me when I saw it in the movies. Trust me when I say a good chunk of the audience were sitting on their legs afraid that there was a snake in the theater. A great thriller.

Buddy Buddy-Billy Wilder remake of a French comedy about a hit man bothered by a suicidal man in the next hotel room. Instead of Jacques Brel we get Walter Matheau and Jack Lemon. Its a mess. I know of a few people who kind of like it but it was one of the WTF films that Wilder ended his career with. Kinski plays the head of a weird sex clinic...

For details go to the Anthology website.

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Wonderful William Joyce film based on the stories he told his kids which in turn inspired a series of books which resulted in this film (or something)

The premise of the film has Jack Frost meeting up and ultimately joining the Guardians of Childhood (Tooth Fairy,Sandman, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny) They are tasked with protecting children from the evil of Pitch who feeds on fear. Pitch wants to stop children from believing since if kids don't believe in the Guardians then they will lose their power and eventually disappear. If they disappear Pitch will rule over everything.

Great vocal performances by Jude Law as Pitch, Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny, Chris Pine as Jack and Alec Baldwin as Santa help to create a bunch of characters that anyone could really believe in. Why can't their be a dark lord? Why couldn't Santa be a warrior? Yes the characters look cool but at the same time the voices sell the characters beyond the look and beyond the script.

Also helping to sell things are all of the small little touches that are in the film. First and foremost are all of the little characters that help the Guardians, the elves, the yeti like creatures, the giant eggs, the fairies, the nightmares, the reindeer. The fact that great care was given over to all of these characters says a great deal about the rest of the film. Actually watch the design of the film watch the levels of detail with in each shot and sequence and you'll realize that the film is truly something special. I mean where most animated films simplify their design RISE increases it making each frame feel like a real place instead of a simple background (The Kung Fu Panda films anyone?)

I know the film didn't do well, or super well at the box office. I know when it came out it went head to head with another family film, but you know what, this maybe a better film, at least from a more adult perspective. I think the reason this film didn't do well is that while the good vs evil plot will work fine for kids, the other layers, the need to believe for example are things which are going to go over a kids head.  I mean are kids really going to understand how important one person believing in you is? I doubt it. I doubt they are going to catch all of the things for moms and dads.

I really like this film a great deal. No it's not a perfect film but it is pretty darn good, and it does have some really cool stuff in it so what more could you ask for?

See this film.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nightcap 7/27/14 Sound and Vision is this week,and some other stuff...

Thursday at Lincoln Center they are beginning their second Sound + Vision series of music films. The series, scheduled to run until August 6, is a mix of concert films and music documentaries on artists from around the world. I’ve seen four of the newer films and we have looks at South African protest music, a Japanese didgeridoo played, rock duo from Mexico and a rocker from the wilds of Pennsylvania. I’ve also seen Stop Making Sense, which is being screened with David Byrne in attendance.

It’s a wonderful way to discover some new favorite music and highly recommended. Reviews will be running through the week so keep watching.

For tickets and a complete list of films go to the festival page here.
You may have noticed that I’ve gone off plan and just run Fantasia reviews this weekend. I’m sorry for mucking you up, but stuff happens. Not to worry, I’ll be back on plan starting tomorrow as we run a week of animated film reviews that have been kicking around for the better part of a year- no really I had this suckers scheduled pretty much 7 other times in the past year (In one review I refered to my three year old niece- the trouble is she's now a year older so I had to update it). I’m not moving them again so expect the kid stuff to crash into more Fantasia reviews, Sound + Vision reviews and  a few new release reviews as well.

On the plus side I have managed to maintain my only seeing things I want to see stance by doing just that with the Fantasia titles and a couple of new releases that I genuinely want to see for themselves.

Shhhhh-a trailer for a must see at Fantasia
A couple of weeks back John, Bully and myself saw the Riff Trax SHARKNADO performance. It was one of the best shows that the boys ever did. They made a pretty awful, funny on its own wretched terms film even funnier. If they ever release it to home video see it.
The Film Society is screening every film John Waters ever made and a few he wish he had. Waters will be there for several screenings so I highly recommend going. Details can be found here.
And Now Randi's Links

Sherlock Holmes as a police sketch
all Marvel films look the same
A kind of Bladerunner anime
An uncensored WW1 poem
Boyhood's black album
BAM's Chris Marker series
The Unfinished Film Project Part 1 Part 2
Cinecitta World has opened in Italy
Hidden in movies

Man in the Orange Jacket (2014) Fantasia Fest 2014

This is exactly the sort of film I should hate.

The cold calculating story of a laid off worker who kills his boss and wife and then moves into their house kind of borders on being a slasher film, which I hate. Additionally there are some stylistic touches (say not seeing the young man's face for the first third of the film) that should work against it, but somehow it works and works really well

One has to credit director Aik Karapetian who manages to tease out the suspense for it's brief running time. Nothing seems wasted, every moment is perfect and is milked for maximum effect. If the pacing is a tad leisurely its only to make the explosions of violence more chilling.

Also a plus is the limited dialog. A largely wordless film, there are times when there is dialog, but most of it isn't really required. Its what happens in the silences and between the screams that is important.

This is a dark bloody film that borders on being an art film, however its a film that any lover of suspense tinged with horror will want to check out.

Man in the Orange Jacket Plays later today. For more information and tickets check the web page.

The Desert (2014) or love in the time of zombies Fantasia 2014

Axel, Ana and Jonathan live together in a small place locked away from the world. It seems that the world has gone to hell in a zombie apocalypse. They record video confessions. They lust unhealthy for each other...and then they bring home a zombie.

You know this isn't going to end well for anyone.

Give writer/director Christoph Behl for going off the board and doing something different. By not going the way of pretty much every other filmmaker working in the wildly over used zombie genre he's found a small little plot of land  to call his own. Actually he's found a plot that that is right next to the godfather of the genre, George A Romero.

What I like about the film, and why the film is right next to Romero's films is that the film isn't about the monsters, it isn't about the gore, it isn't about anything else other than the people involved, people who are forced into a tough situation and forced to deal with it. You could remove the zombies and have it work.

Actually what the film feels like is a riff on The World, The Flesh and The Devil about what happens after an atomic war. While decidedly not as weighty on world issues as that earlier film, the film is still a cousin with its examination of the triangle dynamic.

This is a really good film. How good I'm not sure simply because the novelty of a real live cliche absent zombie film has left me walking on air. Actually if I'm considering this as a film thats a direct heir to Romero's work the film must be really damn good since I could make the comparison if it wasn't on that sort of a level.

Worth a look for those who want intelligent horror, or off beat romances and hate what the zombie genre has become.

The film plays tonight and August 5th at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival page here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A non review of THE ONE I LOVE (2014) Fantasia 2014 (revised)

Sorry to the handful of you who read this when it originally posted, it reads much better now. This piece has been something I've been battling with for a while now and I let it slip out with truly mangled language because I tried to play by a restriction that really makes no sense. You'll see what I'm talking about below.  I've revised the piece and changed it to a non-review because I really can't talk about the film the way it needs to be discussed. 

A couple in crisis go a way to a house in the country that their therapist recommended as the perfect getaway place. He says what they will find  what they are missing there. They do.

I can't tell you any more than that since the whole film hinges on something that the producers do not want to be revealed. The problem is that if I don't talk about what happens I can't really review the film. I don't see what the big deal is but they seem to think not knowing is really important. Personally I don't think it's anything special. Its nothing we haven't seen on any number of TV anthology shows.

What I can say is that as a whole film this film didn't float my boat. This look at a long term couple in crisis is okay, but I never connected to them or their plight. I never really cared. Blame my lack of a long term relationship or the film just not being that good as to why I didn't relate.

As to how you're going to react to the film I won't guess since when this played at Tribeca, the reaction of the people I talked to were split into the "this is really good" and "what's the big deal" camps. Put me in the latter.

The film plays later today at Fantasia.

House at the End of Time (2013)

In 1981 Dulce is imprisoned for killing her husband and being involved in the disappearance of her children. Thirty years later she gets out of prison and is placed under house arrest in the very house where all the bad things happened. However as she soon finds out the past and the present are not that far apart.

Intriguing  horror film is supposedly the first from Venezuela. Its also one of the highest grossing films in Latin America. This is an old school horror film that is also a dynamic drama. Using the dramatic interplay between the characters  the film generates a hell of a lot more suspense then if it had just gone for scares. Additionally the film is lifted out of the classification as to whether it's just another horror film.

Doing interesting things with framing, the use of shadow (for mood and to represent characters), and the reoccurring theme of duality this is the work of a director,Alejandro Hildalgo who is very much at the top of his game. Most times these days when you watch a horror film anything beyond the scares seems to be an after thought  but the design of every facet of the film seems to be designed to create a mood or prepare you psychologically for something later on in the film.

To be honest I'm not sure completely what I think of the film. I know it's very good, but somewhere early on I started to watch the craft of the film (the shots, the set design, how things were arranged) more than the film. Its not that the film was bad, more that I was being a film geek and I was watching how a master filmmaker was doing his tricks, sort of like how I'll watch a magician.

Most certainly the film worth seeing when it plays at Fantasia and elsewhere- especially if you are sick of typical modern horror films.

The film plays tonight and July 30. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival webpage here.

Once Upon a Time in Shanghi (2014) Fantasia 2014

Form over substance action film set in 1930's Shanghai. What I mean by that is this is not a film you'll remember for the plot- just the action.

Philip Ng plays a newly arrived guy with superhero like strength.  He ends up battling one of the heads of the gangs and holds his own and then some with in the allotted time. They then become friends. However this raises the ire of the remaining bosses (especially since a shipment of opium was destroyed in their battle). They plot revenge, leaving a ton of bodies. However they failed to kill Ng so when he finds they've taken the girl he's in love with he wades into their number to get revenge.

There's more to it then that, including Sammo Hung, so don't worry I haven't spoiled anything, besides as I said this is all about the action

The fights were all choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping  and Yuen Cheung-Yan who amp everything up with wires, CGI and slo motion. It all looks kick ass and ugly. Heads are broken. If the fighting isn't really realistic, it doesn't matter since its simply just a truly wonderful violent ballet

And as long as we have the spectacle of fighting or an occasional set piece (the musical number is quite good) the film is wonderful. The problem is the film has exposition sequences and dialog and it's not up to the fighting. Actually to be quite honest its dull. We've seen this sort of story dozens of time before. Its the sort of thing that will make you wish someone would start fighting to liven things up.

Okay it's not quite that bad, however the fighting is that good, and it so outshines the talking that when the final half hour comes and it becomes all fighting you'll be delirious.

I don't hate it, but I wish I had seen this in a theater with a bunch of action fans instead of in my living room on my import DVD.

If you love action give it a go, otherwise take a pass.

The film plays this afternoon and on August 4th at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go to the film's festival web page.

Devil's Mile (2014) Fantasia Fest 2014

You can draw a straight line but it doesn't mean it still has some mean curves

Three kidnappers are transporting their cargo when things begin to go wrong. First they end up on the wrong road. Stopping for directions the clerk behind the counter warns them that they are on the wrong road and should turn around, the road on the map may look like it will get them where they want to go, but it won't be so easy. Further complications arise, several having to do with their cargo and that's all before things get really off the wall.

A largely solid melding of film noir and supernatural horror starts at a gallop and then picks up speed. We're barely 20 minutes into the movie and you're left wondering where in the hell this is going to go. I mean so much has happened whats left?

Lots of stuff.

I don't want to go into it. I want you to sit down and watch this film for yourself and discover its poisoned confections for yourself. I say this  because the film is just premiering and it needs to find an audience before it's spoiled. I read the write up on the festival page and it gave a little bit too much away.


Though to be perfectly honest the real problem with the film isn't fully the fault of the write up, it's in director Joseph O'Brien's script which kind of runs out of steam in the second half after a great first one. If you've seen any number of horror films you'll probably guess where this is going. On some level it's clear early on, but O'Brien is so good at distracting you for a large chunk of the film that you think it's going to do something different because he's set it up to be different. Then it all folds down exactly as some might expect.


Ultimately this is a really good B movie that if taken on it's own terms will delight you. If you can give yourself over to it and not mind the bumps in the road give the film a shot.

Devil's Mile screens tonight. For tickets and more information check the film's festival webpage.