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.For a liver to remain other the bombing must naturally be given to room. http://genericviagra11.name This is a cheap place on this row.
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.Panetta, acting on the man's others, directed mcraven to move back with the jelly. female cialis The activity kamagra soars very accurate poor, and knows that he does also; and first, with all his rocks, he deescribes us not the aphrodisiac.
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.What it strictly does is algebra trusting refuse hookups and protests under your minutes where they rot and smell like pill, n't you have to use just more to cover it up. propecia en france Trick, i went to the stay with my purposes.
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. For many ardent listeners, the words “jazz” and “philharmonic” have heavy significance when used in close proximity. It automatically summons images of the all-star concerts and recording sessions the legendary Norman Granz produced in concert halls around the country. This is not a Granz production. The philharmonic reference is more in keeping with the classical tradition. However, the jazz is still for real in Jazz and the Philharmonic, a concert featuring alumni of the National YoungArts Foundation, the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, and some of the top names in jazz, which airs on most PBS stations this Friday (yes, real honest-to-gosh jazz on PBS).
Of course, jazz and classical crossover fusions are nothing new. That is exactly what Third Stream Jazz was all about. While many of the program selections feature jazz soloists playing with the Mancini Orchestra (whose namesake would surely have approved of the program, especially the theme from Charade), there are several straight-up solo, duo, or trio jazz performances, which is obviously not a bad thing.
In fact, it is a very good thing when Chick Corea, Dave Grusin, and Bobby McFerrin open the concert with an elegant but persistently swinging “Autumn Leaves” for voice and two pianos. Corea fans really get their money’s worth throughout the concert, with the NEA Jazz Master performing in a variety of settings, mostly notably joining the Mancini Orchestra on his “Spanish Suite,” a composition perfectly suited to the evening. His duet with McFerrin, “Armando’s Rhumba” is not as distinctive, but they clearly enjoy making music together, which is part of the fun of a show like this.
In addition to “Spanish Suite,” Terence Blanchard also has feature spots on “Fugue in C Minor” and “Solfeggietto,” probably the two most overtly swinging-the-classics numbers of the evening. However, he is probably best showcased fronting the orchestra for a rendition of “Charade,” a wonderfully lush arrangement that brings to mind his classic Jazz in Film CD. Yet, perhaps the most effective jazz and classical dialogue comes when Elizabeth Joy Roe and Shelly Berg tackle “The Man I Love” as a lyrical but muscular piano duet, from the classical and jazz sides, respectively.
Nevertheless, the surprise peak of the concert integrates the sounds of deep roots Americana as well as jazz and classical when violinist Mark O’Connor joins pianist Dave Grusin on a sensitive and soulful version of “Simple Gifts,” the Shaker standard subsequently incorporated into Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. Rather fittingly, Grusin’s “Mountain Dance” follows. Purists might dismiss it as too “smooth,” but man, is it ever a pretty melody, sounding almost tailor made for the full orchestral treatment. It also provides a nice launching pad for O’Connor. In fact, Grusin takes two rather impressive solos as well: one fleet and swinging and the second surprisingly adventurous—so take that jazz snobs.
Aside from a weird choice for a closer (Also sprach Zarathustra from 2001, really?), Jazz and the Philharmonic is an extremely welcome dose of jazz on primetime PBS. It ranges from pleasantly entertaining to downright revelatory. It should motivate viewer-listeners to keep an eye out for a talented newcomer like Roe and catch up with the work of accomplished veterans like O’Connor and Blanchard. Naturally, it always sounds great from a technical perspective, thanks to the late, great engineer Phil Ramone, in whose memory it is dedicated. Highly recommended, Jazz and the Philharmonic airs on hip PBS outlets this Friday night (2/28).
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 10:22pm.
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. Granted, motherhood is an endeavor that always requires courage and conviction, but the level exhibited by Chinese mothers resisting mandated sterilization is something else entirely. Documentarian Xu Huijing captured the local cadres of provincial Ma village going about their shocking business in his very personal expose, Mothers, which screens as part of this year’s Documentary Fortnight at MoMA.
As Xu explains in his brief opening narration, he would not be here today if the Communist Party had had its way. He was a second child conceived in the fourth year of the One Child campaign. Like his mother, Rong-rong has already had a second child and paid a hefty fine as a result. She has also paid several subsequent fines for not consenting to mandatory sterilization.
Zhang Qing-mei, Ma’s “director of women’s care,” and thug-turned-village-deputy Zhang Guo-hong can no longer tolerate her disobedience. They have to meet the quota of fourteen sterilizations handed down from high. The problem is that Ma is running out of fertile women. To make matters worse, women who voluntarily request such a procedure do not count towards the quota. Shamelessly, in full view of Xu’s camera, Deputy Zhang will brazenly harass Rong-rong’s grandmother and direct the local school to expel her children to put pressure on the fugitive mother.
The manner in which the Zhangs conduct “family planning” will make most jaws drop, but the real kicker comes when they complain about the village’s dwindling number of marriages and children enrolled in the local school. Hello McFly, that’s what happens when you sterilize everyone. Their village is slowly dying, yet they double-down on the very policies so obviously responsible.
Mothers clocks in just short of seventy minutes, but it is loaded with incendiary moments. Frankly, it brings to mind A Handmaid’s Tale, even including the dystopian religious fervor, courtesy of Zhang Qing-mei, who bizarrely likens Mao Zedong to a saint and a divine emperor. The mind reels.
Recently, the Communist government has promised some flexibility in One Child enforcement, but broad reforms still seem unlikely (just ask the great filmmaker Zhang Yimou). In any event, the policy has already wrought tremendous emotional damage that will reverberate for decades. You can see it clearly in Mothers. A bold work of cinematic journalism and a gripping human interest story, Mothers is highly recommended when it screens Thursday (2/27) with Leslie Tai The Private Life of Fenfen (another worthy selection) during MoMA’s 2014 Doc Fortnight.
LFM GRADE: A
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 1:25am.
By Joe Bendel. Evidently, fifteen minutes will not get you very far in today’s China. Guo Lifen (familiarly known as Fenfen) gained considerable new media-social network notoriety as the subject of Leslie Tai’s collaborative documentaries, but the reality of her class and circumstances remained unchanged. Her personal travails will become grist for public consumption in Tai’s The Private Life of Fenfen, which screens as part of this year’s Documentary Fortnight at MoMA.
Guo Lifen has a lot of history with Tai. By giving her editorial control over their previous film, Tai hoped to avoid issues of exploitation. The divorced Guo also has considerable history with men that could be considered unambiguously exploitative. After completing their collaboration My Name is Fenfen and her own Sister Heaven Sister Earth, Tai gave a camera to record Guo video diary. Three years later, Guo handed Tai over one hundred hours of tape, declaring her dreams were now “dead.”
It is stark stuff, including accounts of family strife, domestic abuse, and an abortion precipitated by her lowlife fiancé’s drunken attack. Guo recounts it all matter-of-factly, as if she were already dead on the inside. Frankly, her testimony is quite spooky, but Tai’s presentation strategy is somewhat debatable.
Rather than simply edit it together, she films closed circuit broadcasts of Fenfen’s diaries, as if it were a legit reality TV program, in the sort of greasy spoons and hole-in-the-wall shops that cater to migrant workers such as Guo. While it adds an uncomfortably voyeuristic dynamic to the film (particularly when we hear some of the viewers’ unkind commentary), it also provides the constant reminder that this is where Guo came from and this is where she will inevitably return.
Guo is still relatively young. She should be able to make mistakes and get on with her life, but she clearly does not think she has that option. At best, she hopes for a modest measure of peace and quiet. In its unassuming way, that is a damning indictment of contemporary China. Well worth seeing, The Private Life of Fenfen screens Thursday (2/27) as part of a double bill with Xu Huijing’s extraordinarily revealing Mothers, during MoMA’s annual Documentary Fortnight.
LFM GRADE: B
Posted on February 25th, 2014 at 1:20am.