Archive for March, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Collector’s Edition
The Work of a Master

Arthouse films and New Video have done us all a tremendous favor with the release of the Henri Cartier-Bresson: Collector’s Edition, a two-DVD set that also includes a 32-page booklet explaining his body of work as well as containing reproductions of many of his seminal images—several of which you will likely recognize. The late Cartier-Bresson’s real value, of course, lay not in his filmmaking ability, but in the ethic with which he pursued his subjects. After you watch the collection of documentaries about his work found on Disc 2 of this set, you will be so grateful that he took the time to document the world and its very human inhabitants in the fashion that he did—the work of a true documentarian in every best sense of the word.

A Poorly Acted Thriller

Based on the French thriller Nathalie, Chloe features an impressive cast and a fairly well respected director. The Sweet Hereafter’s Atom Egoyan is the director. Working from a script by Erin Cressida Wilson, he directs former Oscar-nominees Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, along with rising star Amanda Seyfried. With all that talent and the promise of sexy thrills, how could it go wrong? There are many ways to answer that question.

Hot Tub Time Machine
Flashing Back to the Eighties

Four friends jump into a hot tub in 2010 and climb out in 1986. It’s such a simple idea that it just might work. It’s that simple, high-concept idea that started gaining this little film buzz as far back as a year ago. It’s the same kind of buzz that surrounded the equally barefaced titled Snakes on a Plane back in 2006. I enjoyed Snakes, which was a movie that never tried to be anything other than what it was. Unfortunately, I seemed to be in the minority as the movie failed at the box-office. Hot Tub Time Machine hopes to have better luck.

World Exploration 3-Pack
Far Off the Beaten Track

Filmmaker/adventurer Pavol Barabas is no Bear Grylls, who essentially manufactures danger for the sake of the home-viewing audience. There is also no sense, as with Survivor Man, that rescue is still really only a hearty shout or two away. No, Barabas and his co-adventurers are truly “out there” on their own, putting themselves in extraordinary danger—while at the same time exercising pains-taking caution because they know they’re flying without a net. If you’re looking for polished, urbane, pristine nature flicks, though… uh, these aren’t them. But if you’ve got a taste for gritty, unvarnished, off-the-beaten track real-life adventure… oh, man. Score.

Billy: The Early Years
Put Out To Pasture

The film’s emphasis on Charles Templeton leaves the audience adrift—particularly because the performance of Kristoffer Polaha, as Templeton, has precisely the (nonetheless theatrical) gravitas that Armie Hammer’s Graham lacks. The film’s most gripping scene gives Templeton the visual high ground as he renounces his faith and challenges the shallowness of Graham’s beliefs—yet the film never gives Graham an opportunity to mount a stirring rebuttal. The blue-screen backed rally “recreation” that concludes the film, in fact, comes off as a poorly-rehearsed afterthought. I can’t imagine that the Graham family has been at all happy with this film representing, potentially, Billy’s cinematic legacy.

The Men Who Stare At Goats Revisited
Keep Looking

What’s perhaps most interesting about this fictionalized tale of a real-life military unit that experimentally attempted to harness New Agey, hippie-inspired, drug-fueled expanded consciousness to peacefully neutralize enemies is that it doesn’t poke fun at the idea that there’s a legitimate difference between fighting for your country and killing for your country. It also doesn’t entirely scoff at the idea of bona fide metaphysical experiences. So in an era when religion has become an easy target for cheap laughs, well… I guess I’m happy for a measure of respect on the film’s part. But in this case, I think I really would have just enjoyed more comedy.

The Lightkeepers
Rocky Shoals, Shallow Water

The nicest thing about the film is what it has to say about the power of reconciliation and transformation. These are values that always worth thinking about, talking about—values worthy of the highest artistic aspirations. Think, for instance, of Babette’s Feast. But I’m afraid I can’t recommend catching this film during its theatrical release. Part of the problem is that the beautiful cinematography captures too much of a specific place and period—and that place/period is Cape Cod in, say, 2007 rather than 1912. Everything seems frozen in time rather than living in time.

Repo Men
They’ll Take Back Your Heart

Repo Men is based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia. Although the novel was not published until 2009, work on the screenplay had actually begun as far back as 2003. The final script by Garcia and Garrett Lerner makes it to the big screen less than a year after the book’s release with a couple of movie stars and a first-time feature director. The result is a movie that had me changing my opinion about it multiple times throughout. Anyone who dislikes gratuitous violence will like the movie less and less as it goes on, but for those who can put up with it, the film has cool enough leads and enough interesting things going on to maintain your interest and keep you entertained.

She’s Out of My League
Short-Term Comedy

After playing supporting roles in hit comedies like Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder, Jay Baruchel finally gets his time in the spotlight this March in both live-action and animation. At the end of the month, Baruchel will voice the lead character in How to Train Your Dragon, but first he stars in She’s Out of My League as the average, nerdy guy who somehow wins the heart of the hot girl. At least, I think he does. I just saw the movie and I’ve pretty much forgotten about it already.

Green Zone
Action with an Agenda

Green Zone is a new Iraq war thriller that couldn’t have planned its release date any better. Being released wide on March 12th, the movie hits theaters just five days after another Iraq war movie, The Hurt Locker, took home the Oscar for Best Picture. The movie’s marketing team, however, has taken a different tack. They are focusing on the collaboration between director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon, whose two previous collaborations resulted in The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, two of the best and most popular action movies in the past decade. Whereas those movies were pure entertainment, however, Green Zone has a decidedly more political agenda. And I find it to be the best American movie released so far this year

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