Partially shot guerrilla-style at Disney theme parks but largely on soundstages or enhanced by green-screen work, Randy Moore’s amateurish labor-of-weird-love, “Escape From Tomorrow,” follows a single day in a middle-aged father’s life after he’s lost his job via phone call on a balcony overlooking the Magic Kingdom while his wife and two kids just want to see the park. Semi-surreal science fiction complications, botched horror and bad, flat acting erupt, as well as dad’s perverse and lecherous desire for two underaged French girls. Male middle-aged crisis writ large on a washed-out post-David Lynch palette, Moore’s subversive ambition is submerged by his project’s mere ickiness. Read the rest of this entry »
And sometimes we are who we eat. Jim Mickle’s “We Are What We Are,” a revision of Jorge Michel Grau’s 2010 Mexico City-set cannibal chiller “Somos lo que hay,” is a lyrical feat of dread, an atmospheric advance on his earlier tasty vampire entry “Stake Land,” (2011). Bill Sage brings middle-aged gravity—“We do it the way we would have always done it”—to the role of the paterfamilias of the isolated Parker clan, who insists on hewing to his family’s ancient ways. The punkish urban styling of his work with Hal Hartley seems far away, but it’s of a piece, simple, stolid and all the more distressing for its calm. (As is the calm and bloom of the two teen sisters played by the porcelain-featured Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner.) The setting, a flooded Catskills village in upstate New York—shot with a sepulchral gleam by Ryan Samul—is a contrarian one for a movie played like a Western about isolated evangelicals with hard-won, hard-to-defeat beliefs, but an inspired one. Read the rest of this entry »
Hungarian-American director Nimród Antal (“Kontroll,” “Predators”) joins hands with the members of Metallica (James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo) for “Metallica Through The Never.” Shot in 3D on a 360-degree stage at a fistful of Canadian stadium shows, with twenty-four swooping, darting cameras on cranes and jibs, as well as cameramen behind 3D Steadicam rigs that dart around the edges of the frame, strange and Taurus-headed figures. It’s fluid work, but the movie also intersperses wordless scenes of a young roadie, Trip (Dane DeHaan, “The Place Beyond The Pines”), on a mission to retrieve a mysterious satchel on quotidian but post-apocalyptic late-night Canuck streets outside. Read the rest of this entry »
“We make the rules of the economy–and we have the power to change those rules”: there’s a sobering thought after hearing bought-and-bought-again politicians once again talking about wrecking the American credit rating and refusing to do anything to help the economy. After the fashion of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Jacob Kornbluth’s pacey documentary follows diminutive former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich through his teaching and speaking schedules, on a quest to illuminate the damage that income inequality continues to cause the American (and world) economy. Read the rest of this entry »
Documentarian Zachary Heinzerling spent several years following a hate-love-hate relationship between two elderly Japanese-New Yorker artists, Ushio “Gyu-Chan” Shinohara and Noriko Shinohara, “boxing” painter and artist, respectively. They’ve been together for forty years, since she was nineteen, and at first, you can’t see how they’d be together for even five minutes. The result, “Cutie And The Boxer,” is lovingly shaped, beautifully shot, emotionally rich, gaudy, always compelling and in the end, weirdly reassuring about long-term relationships. Read the rest of this entry »
Anwar Congo, right
By Ray Pride
A punchy, audacious, sometimes hallucinatory masterpiece that’s a documentary, a brutal comedy and a stylized musical, combining bruising horror and burlesque, neighborly genocide and the banality of vanity, “The Act Of Killing” is a pitiless wonder. Co-director Joshua Oppenheimer shot for several years, beginning by recording the boasts of unrepentant killers who had murdered “subversives” and “Communists” at the behest of Indonesia’s Suharto regime. An elderly man named Anwar Congo was his forty-first subject, and the finished film is structured around his bravado, weird charisma and discernible flickers of discomfort as he takes credit for a thousand or so killings in the larger genocide. Oppenheimer (co-directing with Christine Cynn and an “anonymous” Indonesian) suggested that they reenact their slayings in the style of their favorite movies. (They thought of themselves as movie killers, claiming to have left an Elvis Presley movie, dancing and ready to garrote a “leftist” neighbor.) Will these fictional “acts of killing” prompt any kind of reflection by these hardened, cheery braggarts, still celebrated as heroes on the streets, at political rallies and on television? Read the rest of this entry »
An old-fashioned scare show turned out with serene confidence, James Wan’s efficient based-on-true-superstition “The Conjuring” is prelude to the events dramatized in “The Amityville Horror.” Married paranormal investigators, or demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga) are called upon to investigate a “dark presence” in a remote Rhode Island house where a couple (Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor) and their five daughters recently moved. It’s the 1970s, or at least Wilson’s sideburns are. Once the investigation begins, the events come fast and furious with near-cyclonic force, some chilling, others increasingly goofy (but never as goofy as the stranger complications in Wan’s “Insidious”). Most of the inhuman occurrences appear to be conveyed through physical means on a human scale, along with the requisite bumps, thumps, jumps, whispers and shrieks in the night. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
The very title, “Only God Forgives,” not only suggests austere pulp, high Euro-trash, it encapsulates the red-light-green-light binary character of Nicolas Winding Refn’s simple, cruel fairytale that’s erected to sustain his gleeful visual and sonic delirium: the characters that take vengeance are taking up the mantle of a higher power, and will be smote. (As well as cleft in twain.) No eye for any old eye here.
In a storybook Bangkok, where the central characters live by night and a nameless, karaoke-adept cop-cum-executioner (Vithaya Pansringarm) meditates by day, an American sex tourist kills a woman, whose father-pimp then is given leave to do what he wants with the man under the gimlet eyes of the cop. The victim’s brother, Julian (Ryan Gosling), running a boxing gym, but likely other criminal endeavors, and on the run from an at-first unspecified crime, notifies their mother (Kristen Scott Thomas), who comes to collect the body. Action piles upon reaction in a virulent way until a gorily climactic punishment of a secondary character after the fashion of primal Greek drama, overseen by a reproduction of a statue of David from antiquity, tiny penis and all. Read the rest of this entry »
A blend of horror and comedy is the kind of tonal impertinence that should be near-impossible to pull off, but that’s not stopping filmmakers these days, especially bloody-minded Australians like debut writer-directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes, whose script won a Slamdance screenwriting nod. In “100 Bloody Acres,” two brothers run an organic fertilizer company that relies on bits and pieces of dead car crash victims. Money and blood, city vs. country: all the motivations you need for a missile-speed ride of inventive (if low-budget) gore and gags in the countryside near Adelaide. They don’t want to be killers, they just want to make a living in tough times. In the straightforward tagline from Music Box Films’ new horror arm, Doppelgänger Releasing, “They’re not psycho killers. They’re small business owners.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Ray Pride
In Sofia Coppola’s fifth feature, the sublime and serene “The Bling Ring,” five children—four princesses and a prince—run in gentle Angeleno night from enchanted castle to enchanted castle, gathering treasure in the form of beads and raiment and gold and currency, spending themselves afterward on endorphins and coke.
But this based-on-fact fairytale is very much like her four earlier fairytales, sharing one keen characteristic. Aloneness: Coppola’s great subject. To be among others and yet so very alone. (Like any proper reader of fairytales as well.) To be a dreamy teenaged girl in “The Virgin Suicides,” a disenchanted actor in “Lost in Translation,” a reluctant royal in “Marie Antoinette,” a dislocated father in “Somewhere.” And “The Bling Ring”: these five privileged suburban kids from Calabasas, from over several hills, who had already gone wrong before they got assigned to a remedial high school where they all meet. Before long, they’re breaking into the homes of celebrities, feckless, heedless, reckless home invaders who think it’s all nothing more than months of late-night joy rides. (The shocking yield was $3 million in schmattas and swag.) Their targets for burglary hopscotch: Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, as well as reality-TV stars whose names you might have to look up. Read the rest of this entry »