All posts by Steve Norwood

DVD Releases for 6/29/10

Big, diverse batch of films.  We’ll go alphabetically this week:

The Crazies – Given it’s dead zone February release date, one would likely think this remake of George Romero’s low-fi Seventies flick didn’t have much going for it.  Turns out, it was a solid, well-made genre piece that made good on all that it promised in its eerie trailer.  Another nice outing by Timothy Olyphant, who is fast becoming the new aww-shucks/everyman action hero.  Check it out.

The Eclipse – Moody ghost story about several writers at a literary conference.  Far better than that sentence reads.

Hot Tub Time Machine – Remember raunchy comedy?  Here you go.  Good times, especially if you were at the movies in the Eighties.

Percy Jackson and the Something Something – Tired of Harry Potter?  Or just waiting on the next Harry Potter?  Maybe give this Olympian tale of kids and gods and lightning and such.

Pretty Bird – Something from the I Never Heard Of That Before Department:  Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup and Kristin Wiig in a tale of three entrepreneurs who set out to create a rocket belt.

The Warlords – Andy Lau, Jet Li and Takeshi Kaneshiro.  Do I need to say anything else?

The White Ribbon – Michael Haneke’s latest.  This kid’s face should say it all.

Review: John Rabe

“You may be a good doctor and you may know something about telephones, but neither of you knows anything about diplomacy!”

Florian Gallenberger’s historical drama John Rabe takes the 1937 attack on Nanking, China by invading Japanese forces (and the horrific atrocities that ensued), and filters it through the noble actions of a handful of foreign characters, including the titular German industrialist, an American doctor and a Jewish-born, German diplomat. That it excels as a production but not as a story says a lot more about the director’s lack of style and the script’s focus than the people involved in it.  But the film also comes to U.S. theaters at an awkward time, following the successful festival run of Chuan Lu’s similarly-themed docudrama City of Life and Death, a stunning film with which Rabe cannot contend.  City of Life and Death is best-of material;  John Rabe is merely a solid film. Such comparisons are unfortunate, but inevitable. Continue reading Review: John Rabe

Review: Micmacs

“How’s it going with the warmongers?”

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s distinctive filmmaking style is one of history, hyper-detail and whimsy.  These are not bad things, especially when the stories they tell maintain an emotional grip on the viewer throughout, as in Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, or when they are murkily, morbidly fanciful, as in Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children and his new film, Micmacs à Tire-Larigot (in America, it is being simplified as Micmacs). Continue reading Review: Micmacs

Review: I Am Love

“Our family’s fortune is built on unity.”

In Erick Zonca’s criminally overlooked Julia, Tilda Swinton gives a searing portrayal of a woman with no sense of control:  she drinks to brave excess, beds whoever is there before she passes out, agrees to madness and then attempts to re-shape madness to suit her own needs, by the end only barely realizing that her capacity for execution of a plan is far outweighed by every single element that surrounds her.  Swinton plays Julia as loose, sweaty, persistent, loud and desperate, yet remains thoroughly winning from start to finish.  What a thrill it must have been for the actor to go from that role to the tightly-wound, formal, soft-spoken and (ultimately) sensually pronounced Emma Recchi, in Luca Guadagnino’s sumptuous and melodramatic I Am Love (Io Sono L’Amore). Continue reading Review: I Am Love

DVD Releases, 06/22/10

This week, we’ll be sharing with you the foreign title translations of new-to-DVD films:

The Maid – “I Love My Job, I Must Break Free!” (Japan)

Bluebeard – “Wealthy Aristocrat Has Hair of An Odd Hue” (Lithuania)

Remember Me – “Sad Lovers” (Korea)

The Last Station – “Tolstoy’s Magical Winter” (Estonia)

She’s Out of My League – “My Fantasy Girl Wants Me, But I Am The Nerd” (Italy)

Green Zone – “The Dangerous Place Where Tormentors Dwell” (Argentina)

Review: Jonah Hex

“I don’t know what to say to you.”

Jonah Hex is a puzzle.  Adapting the character’s name and facial scar (and little else) from a western-themed comic book series, the film makes simultaneous cases for the re-thinking of comic book and videogame adaptations (it’s so sloppily put together that it will likely do more damage to beloved geekery than Super Mario Bros. and Batman and Robin combined), as well as against the rushed closure of Hollywood productions in crisis. Continue reading Review: Jonah Hex