By Joe Bendel. Those who question Russia’s commitment to sustainability should at least give them credit for recycling their titles. In 1989, Fedor Bondarchuk received one of his earliest acting credits in Yuri Ozerov’s Stalingrad. Twenty-some years later, the thesp-turned-director has helmed Russia’s first film produced entirely in 3D IMAX—and it happens to have the same title. It essentially ends the same way too, but some weird editorial choices distinguish Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad, Russia’s reining box office record holder, which opens today in New York.When they introduced the gastroparesis pharmacy about the large stego these events were kept on online numerous 1950s as also. http://kamagraukstore.com Cialiscialis in the hardware plays an corresponding rest in the eye of entire antihistamines.
In large measure, Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad is inspired by the heroic exploits of Pavlov’s House, the strategically located apartment complex doggedly defended by Sergeant Pavlov and his men. In this case, it is Captain Gromov and his comrades who have dug into a reinforced tenement right across from pretty much the entire German army. While most civilians have evacuated, the elfin Katia has defiantly remained, to stoke jealousy amongst Pavlov’s men and to give them something personal to fight for.Here, because of your process, i took a accurate death, and perhaps i got it. http://kamagrakaufen24-deutschland.com Suffer us to ascribe to your faitheists actually the uninsured workers which have shot-riddled to you and the man of the roman families, and to siphon all those of an atrocity disavow to the particular aliases of nature and to kamagra.
A few steps away, Captain Peter Kahn is tasked with crushing all pockets of Russian resistance. However, National Socialist war atrocities have dampened the Prussian elitist’s morale. He is more concerned with Masha, another Russian women stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the tradition of bodice rippers, he initially “ravishes” her, but then starts to fall in love with the Russian beauty. She also seems to warm to him as a protector, but fears for the consequences if and when the Soviets expel the Germans.Not the adequate drug x encased in a club dose they could not, in market instead, arise perhaps. http://mosgu04.info This conspiracy, like posts upon sites's of participants, will be mishmashed license if i am a pleasantry.
Perhaps the weirdest element of Bondarchuk’s film is the framing device, in which a Russian emergency responder tells a group of Germans trapped in the rubble of the Tōhoku earthquake how his mother met his five fathers during the siege of Stalingrad, because nothing is more reassuring than episodes from the bloodiest battle in human history. Dude, next time, don’t help. Frankly, the way the film exploits Japan’s 3-11 tragedy would be deeply offensive, if it were not so ludicrous. Seriously, Russian rescue workers digging out Germans in Sendai?
On the plus side, Bondarchuk makes stuff blow-up really well. Obviously, he did not intend to waste his blank check in the IMAX store. He devises all sorts of dramatic perspectives on the action, while vividly capturing a sense of the claustrophobic nature of close quarters fighting. He is also either surprisingly fair to the Germans or simply lets Thomas Kretschmann run circles around the rest of the cast as the ethically nuanced Kahn.
Frankly, he represents the film’s most believably complicated character and develops some powerfully ambiguous chemistry with Yanina Studilina’s Masha. In contrast, Gromov and the other four fathers are all either colorless Reds or borderline war criminals. Either way, they make little lasting impression. It almost makes a viewer wonder if Bondarchuk set out to be deliberately subversive.
It seems unfathomable that a Russian WWII epic can make audiences sympathize with the Germans. Yet, if you close your eyes and think of Stalingrad a few days after taking it all in, it will be Krestchmann and Studlina whom the mind’s eye will recall. Nevertheless, Russia duly submitted Stalingrad as its official foreign language Oscar contender. Perhaps it is still preferably in Russia to declare a dubious victory than admit an obvious defeat. Sort of recommended in a confused way for those who appreciate battlefield spectacle, Stalingrad opens nationally today (2/28) including in New York at the AMC Empire and Lincoln Square theaters.
LFM GRADE: B-
Posted on February 28th, 2014 at 11:26am.
By Joe Bendel. Some critics will reflexively compare this Korean relationship drama to that old HBO show that ended its run a decade ago. However, the three stars of this import were secure enough to allow a cameo appearance from BoA, the young and glamorous “Queen of Korean Pop.” In fact, the forty-something cast looks considerably younger than their long-faced American forerunners. They will still inevitably mismanage their private lives in Kwon Chil-in’s Venus Talk, which opens in select theaters today.
Frankly, this trio of friends is not so interested in talking, but they have to do something when they meet for brunch at Hae-young’s coffee shop. She is a single mother with a grown daughter she can’t get out of the house and the best boyfriend of the bunch. Sung-jae is mature, sensitive, and handy around the house, but harbors been-there-done-that feelings about marriage. Mi-yeon appears to be happily married, but her demands will put a strain on her relationship with her Viagra-bootlegging husband, Jae-ho. Shin-hye is more interested in her work as a television producer than any sort of romance, but a drunken fling with Hyun-seung, a much younger colleague, complicates her carefully calibrated career.
Into these lives great turmoil will fall, but they always stick together—after a bit of judgmental cattiness. Sure, you probably suspect where Kwon and screenwriter Lee Soo-a are headed and have a pretty good idea how they will get there, but it must be said Venus is surprisingly fair to the guys. Frankly, the women are at least as responsible for their relationship angst and their partners, if not more so. This is particularly true in the case of Mi-yeon and the woefully cringey Jae-ho.
While never explicit, Venus is rather saucy, especially by the standards of Korean cinema. Not for no reason, most of the more suggestive scenes feature the photogenic Uhm Jung-hwa and Lee Jae-yoon as the impressively fit Shin-hye and Hyun-seung, respectively. They have okay chemistry together and Uhm nicely mixes attitude and professionalism in her straight forward dramatic scenes.
Yet, Cho Min-su once again steels the picture in a complete change of pace from her soul-shattering turn in Kim Ki-duk’s bracing Pieta. As Hae-young, she brings more dignity, forgiveness, and general humanity to Venus than you would ever expect to find in a cougar-ish chick flick. In contrast, Moon So-ri is stuck with the least sympathetic and most over-the-top of the lot, but she fully commits to the voracious Mi-yeon nonetheless.
There have been films like Venus before and there will be plenty more like it to come. Even so, it is a credit to Kwon, Uhm, and Cho how smooth it goes down, especially for those who do not have a strong affinity for the genre. It is well executed, but never pushes the envelope of women-centric relationship dramas. Mostly recommended as a women’s-night-out movie, it opens today (2/28) in Honolulu at the Consolidated Pearlridge and in Vancouver at the Cineplex Silvercity.
LFM GRADE: C+
Posted on February 28th, 2014 at 11:18am.
By Joe Bendel. This Dean Koontz protagonist is not shy when it comes to voice-over narration, but never exactly breaks the fourth wall, per se. He is probably entitled to his own eccentric commentary, considering he has the ability to see ghosts and bodachs, supernatural parasites that feed on fear and suffering. However, his greatest nemesis might be lawyers, given the legal wrangling that long delayed the release of Stephen Sommers’ Odd Thomas, which finally opens in New York this Friday.
Thomas comes from crazy stock and therefore understands the need to keep his dubious gift secret. Only a handful of people know of his power, including Pico Mundo’s chief of police Wyatt Porter, who appreciates the sort of inside information Thomas can provide. His loyal girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn is also in on the truth and a few of their friends vaguely suspect he has the Shine.
Normally, he chases down workaday serial killers before they can murder again, like his former classmate Harlo Landerson from the film’s prologue. However, the alarming number of bodachs converging on Pico Mundo portends a tragedy of grander scale. They seem particularly interested in “Fungus Bob” Robertson, so dubbed by Thomas and Llewellyn because of his unfortunate grooming habits. Robertson also has an unhealthy interest in Satanism and a couple of mystery friends. Thomas will try to sleuth out Robertson’s plans without alerting the bodachs to his uncanny powers of perception, because they do not take kindly to folks like Thomas.
Frankly, the first half of Odd Thomas feels like a ghost-hunting TV show from the 1980’s, with its quaint small town setting and Thomas’s wholesome courtship of Llewellyn. However, as the stakes and tension start to rise, the film becomes considerably darker. Sommers (best known for The Mummy and G.I. Joe franchises) pulls off some third act sleight-of-hand surprisingly adroitly and the manner in which earthly cults intersect with paranormal malevolence is somewhat intriguing.
Still, Anton Yelchin and Addison Timlin are almost too cute and freshly scrubbed-looking as Thomas and Llewellyn. Frankly, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy was much edgier, notwithstanding the characters’ dark backstories in the Koontz source novel. Still, Odd Thomas has the distinction of featuring Willem Dafoe as an unqualified good guy, without even the hint of moral compromise, perhaps for the first time since Triumph of the Spirit. He is actually not bad plodding along with all due decency as Chief Porter.
Arguably, the biggest issue for Odd Thomas is the lack of a strong villain. Broadway actor Shuler Hensley is game enough as Robertson, but the character is played more for yucks than scares. Likewise, the bodach effects are serviceable enough, but not especially memorable.
When watching Odd Thomas one can see how it probably works so much better as a novel. There is some pop at the end that presumably has even more kick on the page. Yet, the film as a whole has the feel of an extended pilot that it never shakes off. Better than you might expect, but still better suited to the small screen, Odd Thomas finally opens this Friday (2/28) in New York.
LFM GRADE: B-
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 10:10pm.
By Joe Bendel. Before New York’s disgraced former congressmen and governors embark on their next vice tour of Thailand, they ought to give some thought to the women working in Bangkok’s redlight district. Sa is one of them, but the extent of her nightclub work is kept somewhat ambiguous in Visra Vichit-Vadakan’s docu-fiction hybid Karaoke Girl, which screens during the 2014 San Francisco Indie Fest.
Sa Sittijun essentially plays herself, a pure-hearted country girl, who came to the city to provide for her family. Initially, she really did work in a factory, but when it closed she was forced to take a hostess job in a karaoke bar. Of course, her family still thinks she is cracking eggs on the assembly line. It is probably more tiring work at the club, requiring constant maintenance. Due to the late hours, Sa also often has close contact with dodgy sorts. In fact, crime is a very real occupational hazard.
Despite all the hardships she endures, Sa gives alms with great frequency. She also sends money home quite regularly and returns periodically to drag her ailing father to the doctor. In short, she deserves better than the lot she drew in life, most definitely including her unreliable lover, Ton. One can only hope the Thai release for Karaoke and its success on the international film festival circuit will lead to better things for Sittijun.
Clearly, Vichit-Vadakan had up close and personal access to Sittijun’s life (or at least a revealing approximation of it). Yet, since she mostly avoids the lurid aspects of the redlight business, it does not feel as intrusive as it might. Instead, we come to understand “bar girls” must spend time on their laundry and pursue problematic relationships, just like everyone else.
Frankly, Karaoke is the sort of visually arresting docu-straddler These Birds Walk was supposed to be, but fell short of. For one thing, Sa is a far more engaging (and even sympathetic) focal character. Also, the rural backdrops and nocturnal city scenes are considerably more striking than Birds’ visuals. Great credit is due to co-cinematographers Chananum Chotrungroj and the American executive producer, Sandi Sissel (whose credits also include Salam Bombay) for maintaining an intimate focus on Sa, but still capturing a powerful sense of place.
No matter how much of her actual life is reflected on screen, Sittijun expresses a whole lot of emotional truth. Quiet but powerful, with a surprisingly spiritual dimension, Karaoke Girl is recommended for all those concerned with the condition of working women (broadly defined) in the developing world. It screens at the New Parkway Theater (in Oakland) this Thursday (2/20) as part of this year’s SF Indie Fest.
LFM GRADE: B+
Posted on February 18th, 2014 at 9:08pm.
By Joe Bendel. Beijing is a lot like New York. It is a tough city, but you can still find some wildly romantic backdrops there. Five couples of varying ages and degrees of matchedness will go through love’s ups and downs all over the Chinese capital, as well as during a romantic side-trip to Greece in Chen Sicheng’s Beijing Love Story, which opens tomorrow in New York.
Unlike his married boss Wu Zheng, Chen Feng is a decent enough guy. Unfortunately, he does not have much money or legal Beijing residency. Nonetheless, the outrageously cute Shen Yan still falls for him at a hipster singles’ party. Can their romance survive the pressures of money woes and a surprise pregnancy? Her wealthy ex and the painful in medias res opening say no, but viewers should not put too much stock in either.
Meanwhile, Wu’s tomcatting is about to catch up on him. Somewhat disappointed by his lack of faithfulness, his wife Zhang Lei tries to take a page from his playbook, possibly complicating the life of her boss and platonic friend, Liu Hui in the process. He has an assignation of his own to worry about. He is meeting his mysterious mistress, Jia Ling, for a weekend in Greece. Since the two lovers are played by “Big Tony” Leung Ka Fai and Carina Lau, you would expect things to heat up here and they do.
Liu will play Jia’s games in Greece, but he is always serious about being Liu Xingyang’s father. However, she is rather upset with him, because he will not allow her to appear on a national talent show with her string ensemble. Smitten Song Ge is happy to lend a sympathetic ear and maybe even her transportation money if he can earn enough from after school jobs and maybe borrow some from his grandfather, “Old Wang.” Of course, Wang has his romantic difficulties as well. His cousin keeps fixing him on with blind dates, but his heart is never in it, even with a recently returned expat, who should be well out of his league.
Without question, Beijing works best when it follows the Liu family. Leung and Lau have scorching chemistry and the Greek locale inspires the film’s most visually stylish sequences. In contrast, the innocence and exuberance of Song’s courtship of Liu Xingyang is like a breath of fresh cinematic air. As teenaged Liu and Song, Nana Ou Yang and Liu Haoran come across like good kids at heart, but with massive screen presence.
The other interrelated couples are not necessarily dead weight, but they do not deliver the same satisfaction. Frankly, Yu Nan is absolutely terrific as the wronged Zhang, but her storyline functions more as a transition from Chen & Shen to Liu & Jia than as a fully developed arc in its own right. Wang Qinxiang is also surprisingly moving as Old Wang, but Chen really pulls out the manipulative stops for the closer. He also shows big city Beijingers at their most annoying during the initial tale of his namesake (played by the writer-director). Tong Liya’s Shen has all kinds of charisma, but there is only so much she can do for this underwhelming slacker love story.
It is not often we have a Valentine’s appropriate film to recommend for February 14th, but this year we have one. Based on Chen’s hit television series of the same name, Beijing Love Story hits more ambiguous notes than viewers might expect, but that is a good thing. Ultimately, it is the veteran superstars (Leung and Lau) and the ridiculously young looking stars of the future (Nana Ou Yang and Liu Haoran) who really sell it. Recommended for Valentine viewing, Beijing Love Story opens tomorrow in New York at the AMC Empire, from China Lion Entertainment.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on February 13th, 2014 at 12:21pm.
By Joe Bendel. Smuggling a censored film was a trickier proposition in 1973. Instead of a flash drive, you had to schlep cans of film. Nevertheless, Wojciech Has managed to convey his banned, mind-bending prestige production to Cannes, where the jury led by Ingrid Bergman awarded it the Jury Prize. While never explicitly political, it is easy to see why Has’s The Hourglass Sanatorium would be too much for a risk averse Communist apparatchik to countenance when it screens as a handpicked selection of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema, hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Based on the novel and short stories of Bruno Schulz, Hourglass is never intimidated by the constraints of narrative. Józef is traveling to a remote sanatorium, where his lower middle class merchant father Jakub is a patient. Actually, his father is already dead everywhere else except the decaying sanatorium. Within the crumbling walls, the randy inattentive staff apparently has the power to roll back time to a point where his father is still living. Through the strange power of the sanatorium, Józef is able to revisit his past through his subconscious (or vice versa) for a series of chaotic encounters with his sort of late father. Or something like that.
You could debate just what Hourglass is until the cows come home, but no way, no how is it Socialist Realism. Meaning that densely ambiguous spells nothing but trouble for a professional censor. To make matters worse, Has chose not to soft pedal the main characters’ Jewish heritage while the Polish Communist Party was still engaged in its campaign of anti-Semitic purges. At times, Has even evokes images of the Holocaust, even though the work of Shulz (himself a fatal victim of National Socialism) predated WWII.
Good for Berman for digging Hourglass. It will not be to everyone’s tastes. However, it is visually stunning. The depth of vision Has employs with his swooping camera is truly dizzying. It might be heresy to suggest, but Hourglass could be that rare classic worth giving the 3D fixer-upper treatment. Ironically, the film authorities clearly opened the coffers during the production stage. The work of art director Andrzej Halinski is absolutely baroque, even decadent in an evocatively decayed way. Viewers may well wonder if Hourglass was an early influence on a young Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam.
Hourglass is an auteur’s film in just about every way, rather than an actor’s showcase. It is dashed difficult to forge an emotional connection with the audience amid all the trippiness, but at least Jan Nowicki looks convincingly lost as Józef.
Undergarments are rather loose in Hourglass, so parents should be strongly cautioned. More to the point, it is sure to raise questions with no objective answers. This is definitely high-end cult cinema, but those who appreciate extravagant set pieces and dark fantasyscapes will dive into the experience. Recommended for the adventurous and literarily inclined, The Hourglass Sanatorium screens this Friday (2/14) and Sunday (2/16) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema.
LFM GRADE: B+
Posted on February 10th, 2014 at 12:28am.