|Thursday, September 30, 2010 09:44 AM|
|Philadelphia Film Festival 2010|
| by Fëanor|
The 2010 edition of the Philadelphia Film Festival is coming up (October 14th-24th). Gird your loins!
I bought my tickets the other day, after a surprisingly painless winnowing process, and after securing poppy's generous approval for the multiple solo outings that would be necessary. Here's my schedule, if you're interested:
Saturday, October 16th
Darren Aronofsky, 2010, 103 min.
Prince Music Theater
Tuesday, October 19th
Yuen Woo Ping, 2010, 116 min.
Ritz Five A
Wednesday, October 20th
Machete Maidens Unleashed
Mark Hartley, 2010, 83 min.
Ritz Five A
Takeshi Kitano, 2010, 109 min.
Prince Music Theater
Sunday, October 24th
Sound of Noise
Ola Simonsson & Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, 2010, 102 min.
Ritz Five A
Why these movies? Black Swan because of Darren Aronofsky, Outrage because of Takeshi Kitano, True Legend because it's epic kung fu, Machete Maidens Unleashed because it's a movie about movies (and movies that involve unleashed machete maidens, no less), and Sound of Noise because it sounds crazy and fascinating (a detective allergic to sound fighting sound-based criminals).
I thought I'd read somewhere that B-Side was dead, or that the Film Society had dumped the company, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the site is running the B-Side engine again. It's great scheduling technology, and even though I'm seeing too few movies for it to be all that useful, the Schedule Genius is a really cool thing - it's basically an app you can run once you've picked all the movies you want to see, and it just figures out the best way to schedule everything. If it puts a movie in a bad time slot, you can remove it and it will just find the next best time.
Once I had everything scheduled the way I wanted, I looked for a button that would automatically dump tickets for all my screenings into a shopping cart, but unfortunately no such thing exists. They seriously need to work on that. Anything that makes it easier for me to spend money is obviously to their advantage. But the reason why such a magical button does not exist, and most likely will not exist any time soon, probably has to do with the fact that the actual ticket purchase happens through a completely different website called ETix - a site which is a complete mess. First of all, it's ugly and confusing. Secondly, each ticket has to be added to your cart separately in a multi-step, multi-click process. In order to prove that you are a Film Society member, you have to input a password every single time you select a ticket. The calendar/schedule on the ETix website is clunky, poorly designed, and completely different from the B-Side calendar on PFF's site. Also, they give you the option of adding any ticket to your cart for $0, and only tell you at the end when you try to check out that you need to add a special code if you have any $0 tickets in your cart. Admittedly, it should be obvious from the start that you're not going to be able to get all your tickets for free, but still, that is poorly designed.
Ticket-buying complaints aside, I'm excited about attending another Philadelphia Film Festival. Maybe I'll see some of you there?
|Sunday, April 18, 2010 11:40 AM|
|(Last updated on Sunday, April 18, 2010 02:34 PM)|
|On the Viewer - The Good, the Bad, the Weird|
| by Fëanor|
I only got out to see one movie at the Philadelphia Film Festival Spring Preview (for obvious reasons), but I think I chose the right one. The Good, the Bad, the Weird is the freshest, most kick-ass action movie I've seen in years. It's fast-paced, hilarious, visually explosive, wildly inventive, and terribly clever. There's so much action, however, with each set piece bigger and crazier than the last, that by the time two gangs, a bounty hunter, a thief, and pretty much the entire Japanese army are chasing each other across a desert and shooting and killing each other with guns and cannons and horses and cars and knives and dynamite, the movie has overstayed its welcome by just a few minutes and become really a bit too exhausting. Piled on top of that are a surprise final revelation about one of the main characters that's a bit hard to swallow, and a deeply dark and depressing ending, which all combine to leave you even more exhausted and down. But I have a feeling that if I were to watch the movie again, and were more prepared for these things to happen, I might find it more enjoyable.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird, despite the fact that its story focuses on Korean outlaws in 1940s Manchuria, is actually a loving ode to Spaghetti Westerns, especially the classic exemplar of that genre which inspired the film's title, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The plot, which involves three men with mysterious, interwoven pasts working sometimes with - but mostly against - each other to find and secure a secret treasure, is rather similar, and the music too at times hearkens back to Sergio Leone's epic masterpiece. But the most obvious connection between the films doesn't come until the end. The final showdown is practically a shot-for-shot recreation of the other film's rightly famous climactic three-person face-off, with its quick succession of close-ups on faces and eyes and guns. But The Good, the Bad, the Weird is by no means a remake. In fact, it's a wildly imaginative film, especially visually. There's such a riot of colors, and such memorable images - the evil villain, his dark hair covering one side of his face, throwing a knife into the back of a centipede crawling up his door jamb; the crazy thief, wearing an old diver's helmet to protect himself from a hail of gunfire; the train, loaded to bursting with passengers of every type and fashion you can think of; the ghost market, with its fire-swallowers, international criminals, and storefronts selling every kind of stolen good.
The opening sequence, in which two separate gangs, a bounty hunter, and a thief all arrive at the same time to rob the same train, is so fun and funny and thrilling that it could practically stand alone as its own short film. And, as I already said, the movie only continues to one-up itself from there.
The Good, the Bad, the Weird goes on a bit too long. Its pessimistic, Treasure of the Sierra Madre-style, parable-like ending, though certainly conceptually brilliant, ends up being a bit of a downer. And that final twist about one of the film's most likable characters is a bit hard to believe. But the rest of the film is so clever and thrilling, it's pretty easy to make allowances for its few flaws.
|Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:12 AM|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.
- BBC Worldwide and PBS' Masterpiece Theatre will co-produce a new TV series called Sherlock which will feature a 21st century spin on the famous detective, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. (Via)
- Fascinating story about a temple discovered in Turkey that rewrites what we know about the history of humanity. It's 7,000 years older than the Great Pyramid and 6,000 years older than Stonehenge. The archaeologist in charge of the dig thinks it's proof that religion came first, then civilization. Also fascinating: a scientist discovered the site years ago, but walked away from it when he simply couldn't fit it into his view of the world. Cognitive dissonance to the extreme! (Via)
- Incredible papercraft recreation of Howl's Moving Castle. Oddly similar: a gigantic walking city made out of LEGO.
- Nic Cage as the Norwegian curling team. Have I mentioned that I'm obsessed with curling now? Because I'm obsessed with curling now.
- io9 lists 18 upcoming TV shows that could save small-screen sci-fi. I hope they're right, because all the good TV shows seem to be going away. Anyway, a lot of these sound neat.
- io9 gives a good review to the new DC animated movie, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths. Looking forward to it!
- Mark Strong is officially Sinestro.
- They're making Missile Command into a 3D action/adventure film. Will it end the way the game always did: with a huge explosion and the words "THE END?"
- One of my favorite entries on Covered in a while.
- Potato chips with real bacon! I'd buy that for a dollar!
- John Carpenter returned to directing after a ten year absence to make The Ward, a horror flick about a bunch of young women disappearing one by one in an insane asylum. Sounds pretty cliche, but maybe it'll have something new going on that's not obvious from a plot summary.
- Yet more fun toys from the Toy Fair, including Bubo and Lord of the Rings bobbleheads (seriously - a Sauron bobblehead), and a Klingon disruptor.
- A used car (and droid) dealership. (Via)
- Hilarious Mola Ram valentine.
- Here's an amusing online app which you can use to make it look like you're updating your Facebook status via various outrageous methods, including mental telepathy, toilet, and your mom. (Via)
- Dude figured out how to control a whole band's worth of percussion instruments using a couple of Wii Remotes. Pretty amazing stuff.
- Ian McShane as Blackbeard? YES. I would totally watch the next Pirates movie if they do this.
- B-Side is a company that helps run film festivals, providing various handy online scheduling gadgets. I kind of liked some of the stuff they had to offer when I used it during the Philadelphia Film Festival. Sadly, B-Side is now no more.
|Tagged (?): 3D (Not), Art (Not), Business (Not), Cartoons (Not), Celebrities (Not), Comic books (Not), Craft (Not), Curling (Not), Facebook (Not), Food (Not), Gadgets (Not), Green Lantern (Not), Hacking (Not), Hayao Miyazaki (Not), History (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Movies (Not), Music (Not), News (Not), Philadelphia Film Festival (Not), Photography (Not), Pirates (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Science (Not), Sherlock Holmes (Not), Sports (Not), Star Trek (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Tolkien (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video games (Not), Wii (Not)|
|Monday, February 15, 2010 06:52 PM|
|Well I'll Be Damned|
| by Fëanor|
The Film Society is actually going to throw together a spring film festival after all. I didn't think they'd be able to pull it off in the amount of time they had, but they're doing it. They're calling it the Philadelphia Film Festival Spring Preview. It'll run April 9-April 11 at the Prince Music Theater with about four films a day, and all the tickets will be free, but Film Society Members will have advance reservation and priority access (and hey, looks like I renewed my membership a while back, so I'm in!). The full list and schedule of films will be announced in March, and I'll be looking forward to checking that out. I might even be able to attend, but we'll wait and see how things are going with Griffin round about that time. Regardless, I'm glad the tradition of a spring film festival in Philadelphia has not come to an end just yet.
|Thursday, January 28, 2010 08:05 AM|
|(Last updated on Friday, January 29, 2010 06:18 AM)|
|Too Many and Not Enough: The Film Fest Deferred|
| by Fëanor|
poppy just sent me this article, which reports the sad news that CineFest couldn't pull enough money together and will not be presenting a film festival in April this year. It'll be the first time in 19 years that there has been no film festival in Philly in April.
When CineFest and the Philadelphia Film Festival finally split for good, I expected one of them to go under, but I thought for sure it would be PFF, not CineFest. It had been my impression that CineFest had gotten away with all the money and the contacts, and PFF had been left with practically nothing. But PFF rallied and threw together the 18th 1/2 Film Festival last year (which was actually quite nice), and now here's CineFest announcing that they won't have anything for us until 2011. Now that April 2010 has been vacated, the folks at PFF are apparently considering pouncing on it and throwing yet another festival of their own, but it seems unlikely that they'd be able to put something together on such short notice.
It's funny and sad that we've gone from there being too many film festivals in Philadelphia to there now being too few. It's a shame that these organizations had to split and that the wonderful tradition of the Philadelphia Film Festival had to be broken. That being said, for purely selfish reasons, I'm actually okay with there not being a festival this April, as there's no way I'd be able to attend, seeing as how I'll have a new baby to take care of. But here's hoping that whenever I do get the chance to go out to a film festival again (assuming that happens, in some distant future), there will be at least one around for me to go to!
UPDATE: To follow this up - last night, the Philadelphia Film Society, which runs the PFF, sent out an email that essentially said "too bad, so sad" about the cancellation of CineFest, and then proudly announced the dates of the fall festival: October 14 - October 24, 2010. So there.
|Sunday, October 25, 2009 06:38 PM|
|On the Viewer - 18 1/2 Philadelphia Film Festival: Monday, October 19th|
| by Fëanor|
The Men Who Stare at Goats
This movie opens by telling us we wouldn't believe how much of it is true. Then we meet reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), a man made sad, desperate, and slightly suicidal thanks to the recent end of a romantic relationship. His feelings lead him to run off to Iraq where he hopes to make a name for himself by writing a powerful story from the front. Only he can't get permission to get anywhere near the front, and finds himself cooling his heels in a hotel, making up stories of false courageous deeds to tell his ex. Then he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), whom by chance he's heard of before. Cassady is a Jedi warrior - a member of a secret team of psychic warriors trained by the US Army. Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) ran the team, and it was thanks to the actions of trainee Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey) that the team was disbanded and Django sent off in disgrace. But now Cassady says he's been reactivated and is on a mission in Iraq. Wilton decides he's found his story and attaches himself to Cassady, following him into the war zone and becoming both his biographer and his Padawan, as it were. But is Cassady the real thing, or just a dangerous kook?
In case you couldn't tell from my synopsis, the film is a comedy, and it's quite funny and entertaining. The acting is excellent across the board, with Clooney, Bridges, and Spacey turning in particularly wonderful performances. I thought it was odd that McGregor was cast as an American, and thus has to keep up a fake American accent throughout the film. He does a pretty good job, and he's good in the movie, but why not use an American actor? Maybe the temptation to cast a former Jedi Knight as a... well, a Jedi Knight was too great. It certainly does add some pleasant postmodern humor to the proceedings.
My main problem, however, is not with McGregor, but with the film's confused tone. Often it makes fun of the psychic soldiers and treats their powers and philosophies as pure BS, but at other times it embraces them with warmth and love and treats their powers and philosophies as full of truth and wisdom. Maybe the point is that the reality is somewhere in between.
The fictionalized retelling of the life of Michael Peterson, AKA Charles Bronson, AKA Britain's most dangerous criminal. Bronson is a fascinating man, craving fame, but capable of little but violence and destruction - mostly self-destruction. He gets himself thrown in jail when he's quite young and quickly discovers that in that small pond, he can be a big fish. When he gets taken out of prison and put into an insane asylum, he tries to kill someone just so he can go back to prison. When he's declared sane and allowed back into the outside world, he finds himself most decidedly out of his element. He takes a stab at having a relationship, but it all goes wrong. He tries getting a job, but fighting can only get you so far. Soon enough he's on his way back to prison. Every once in a while he takes someone hostage, but once he's done so, he can't come up with any demands. He doesn't do it because he wants something; he does it because it's another way to cause trouble, to exercise his power, and increase his fame.
The film is undoubtedly well made and well acted, especially by star Tom Hardy. There's an odd but compelling recurring device that features Bronson on a stage, telling his story directly to a well-dressed audience, as if he's putting on a one-man show - which, of course, is how he lives his life. Still, despite the clear skill with which the film is made, it left me a bit cold. Yes, Bronson is an extraordinarily flawed, empty, and destructive human being. But... so what?
|Saturday, October 24, 2009 02:08 PM|
|On the Viewer - 18 1/2 Philadelphia Film Festival: Sunday, October 18th|
| by Fëanor|
Sunday I spent the entire day watching the Red Riding trilogy, which is made up of three BBC TV movie adaptations of novels by David Peace. Each is a fictionalized story about corruption and conspiracy surrounding real-life crimes.
Red Riding: 1974
The first film takes as its main character a frustratingly naive young newspaper reporter named Eddie Dunford. He becomes fascinated with the story of a young girl's disappearance, especially when one of his fellow reporters - who's a bit of a paranoid conspiracy nut - points out similarities between this disappearance and the disappearances some years ago of other little girls in the area. Despite repeated interference from his boss, other reporters, and the police, Dunford keeps digging deeper and deeper into the case, and keeps finding more and more disturbing details which seem to point to a much larger conspiracy in which many people of power are involved, including the real estate magnate John Dawson (Sean Bean) and the Yorkshire police force itself. The movie takes the form of a classic detective noir story, with the reporter in the role of the detective. His investigation takes him into the sordid underbelly of the world, revealing the horrid truth about how things really work. It's a well-acted film, with Sean Bean doing his usual excellent work, and the story is reasonably engaging. But it's also extremely slow, relentlessly depressing, and really more cliche than archetypal. Plus our main character is almost impossibly stupid, especially at the end of the tale (you really thought she would run away with you, and that they'd let the both of you go?). Also unbelievable: that the villains allow Eddie to live as long as they do. After he's caused enormous amounts of trouble, and they've realized how much he knows and how dangerous he could be, instead of eliminating him once and for all, they put a weapon in his hand and let him run free, apparently with the assumption that he's learned his lesson. Um... what?
Overall, a disappointing film.
Red Riding: 1980
When the police search for a serial killer in Yorkshire seems to be going nowhere, the bosses send in a team to investigate the investigation. The leader of the team was sent into Yorkshire once before to investigate a mass killing at a bar (this killing, we realize later on, is directly connected to the climactic events of the previous film). He was stopped before he could finish his work that time, so this time he's doubly determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. But of course because he's an outsider who's essentially there to double-check their work, all the Yorkshire police hate him. And things are further complicated for him by the fact that he's chosen as one of the partners in his investigation a woman he once had an affair with, and that his disturbed and needy wife is constantly contacting him and asking for him to come home.
This film's plot structure is quite similar to that of the first film. Again it's a classic detective noir in which a determined, flawed character sticks his nose in where it doesn't belong and disturbs a dangerous and terrifying web of corruption and conspiracy and death which ultimately swallows him. Thankfully this film has a faster pace and is more believable than the first one, and also has a plot with more surprising twists and turns, but it remains relentlessly sordid and depressing.
Red Riding: 1983
The first two films gave us only glimpses of the conspiracy that lies at the heart of everything, but this film finally gives us a look at that conspiracy from the inside, as a member of the secret group pulling the strings is now one of our main characters. He's possibly the first person in any of the films who actually feels remorse about the things he's done wrong. Our other main character is a lonely slob of a lawyer named John Piggott (Mark Addy). John is probably the most likable character in the entire series, as he's the first person we've met who has no horrific character flaws. Sure, he's apathetic at first and unwilling to help people in need, but it's hard to blame him after seeing what we've seen so far, and anyway by the end of the film his apathy has dissolved and been transformed into a desperate determination to see justice done. And indeed this film is the first one in the series to actually see some justice done, and to allow some of its characters to live long enough to enjoy it. All of which makes it probably the best movie in the series - although still not entirely satisfying for some reason.
I'd heard great things about the Red Riding trilogy, and given that it's a series of crime noir movies about serial killers, I thought for sure I'd love it. Sadly, that was not the case. But I did learn one thing: never go to Yorkshire! Seriously, this is like an anti-tourism piece for that area of Britain.
|Tuesday, October 20, 2009 03:41 PM|
|On the Viewer - 18 1/2 Philadelphia Film Festival: Saturday, October 17th|
| by Fëanor|
I have to admit, despite my misgivings, the 18 1/2 Philadelphia Film Festival was pretty well organized, ran pretty smoothly, and had pretty decent attendance at all screenings. There were a few signs of discord, however; the requests by the film presenters to please become a member of the Philadelphia Film Society sounded a little desperate. And the following correction, contained in one of the newsletters sent out during the festival, struck me as pretty telling:
At the request of many festival-goers, a few days ago in our newsline we broke down our line-up of films into sub-categories, much like the we [sic] have done in the past, to make navigation through our Program Guide simpler. Unbeknownst to us, some of the titles of these categories, including Danger After Dark, are actually proprietary to our previous festival partners, TLA Entertainment and Philadelphia CineFest, and are not official categories of the Philadelphia Film Festival. We apologize for using these category names as well as any confusion it may have caused.I imagine this discovery (assuming it honestly was a discovery of something of which they were previously unaware) was quite a blow to the Film Society. Not being able to use the Danger After Dark name must be particularly galling, as that has always been one of the festival's most famous and popular film categories.
Anyway, although I posted reviews on Twitter as I came out of each film, I thought I'd also do some more in-depth reviews here, organized by day. So here's my report from the first day. (The festival actually began on Thursday the 15th, but Saturday was my first day of participation.)
One of the great things about film festivals is they give you the opportunity (and/or excuse) to see weird little movies like this one. Stingray Sam is a sci-fi Western musical serial written by, directed by, and starring Cory McAbee. As the opening theme song of each episode immediately explains, Sam is not a hero. In fact, he once robbed banks with his partner the Quasar Kid (Crugie). They were eventually captured, but both he and the Kid were subsequently released from the prison planet of Durango, along with all their fellow prisoners, when the entire prison system went bankrupt. However, the release came with the understanding that at some point in the future any and all of the ex-convicts could be called upon to do some public service for the authorities. Since his release, Stingray Sam has become a lounge singer on Mars, a planet which has been turned into a kind of washed-up Las Vegas or Reno. One day the Quasar Kid shows up and tells him the time has come to pay back his debt to society. Sam is happy where he is and is not particularly interested in paying back his debt, but the Kid won't take no for an answer, and soon they're off on an intergalactic mission to save a sweet little girl who's been kidnapped by a selfish, idiotic, arrogant aristocrat named Fredward.
Along with a silly kidnapping adventure, Stingray Sam also delivers some amusing social satire. The film is set in a future where the gender of your child can be chosen by pills, and thus the upper and lower classes nearly died out because they all wanted male babies. But a pair of scientists found a solution to this problem: use genetic material from two men to create an embryo and place it inside one of the men. There's no explanation for how the man is then able to physically give birth, but apparently they've been doing so successfully for some time now. The plot of the film is set into motion because a carpenter chooses to have a girl instead of a boy.
Each episode of Stingray Sam is only about 10 minutes long, and there are only 6 or 7 of them, so it's a short, fast film. Each episode also includes one song (all quite silly and entertaining), and the entire movie is narrated with just the right tone of pompous ridiculousness by David Hyde Pierce. It's a fun, wryly funny film, and the ending is even rather touching, as Sam finds himself getting a bit attached - in a very sweet, fatherly way - to the girl he's rescued (and indeed, it looks like from the cast list that in real life the two actors are father and daughter). I recommend the film. And lucky for those of you who missed it at the festival, you can click here to download the whole thing in iPod-compatible format.
A Town Called Panic
I followed up the silly, funny Stingray Sam with the even sillier and funnier A Town Called Panic. This is a stop-motion animated film from Belgium based on a popular Belgian TV show. All the characters in the film are played by little plastic toys. Our heroes are Cowboy, Indian, and Horse. They all live together in one house, next door to a farmer named Steven. When Horse's birthday comes around, Cowboy and Indian are horrified to realize they've forgotten to buy him a present. They quickly order some bricks with which they hope to build him a barbecue. By chance, they order far too many bricks, and this mistake is the catalyst for a series of increasingly odd and hilarious misadventures, including a constantly delayed romance between Horse and the town music teacher, attacks by thieving merpeople, and super-strong mad scientists roaming the snowy wastes in a giant snowball-throwing penguin robot. There is simply no way of knowing what will happen next in this film; it's just one wacky, delightful surprise after another. I can't say it's an important work of cinema, or that it has any deep, powerful meanings, but it is such a wonderful concoction of fun and silliness that I really cannot recommend it highly enough. I'd call it my favorite of the festival. I intend to find a copy of it ASAP so I can show it to poppy.
I don't always love Peter Greenaway's films, but they're always unique and fascinating. This documentary about Rembrandt's famous painting, known as The Night Watch, is no exception. In fact, it's perhaps even more fascinating to me than his average film, as Rembrandt is one of my favorite painters, and his Night Watch has special meaning for me because it's through that painting that I really discovered Rembrandt - not to mention it's the subject of one of my favorite King Crimson songs.
Greenaway wrote, directed, narrates, and even plays the part of prosecutor in this film. He opens it by pointing out that we live in a very text-based society where everyone is taught to read, but very few people are taught to see. Thus the great majority of the population is visually illiterate, meaning, unable to interpret the true meaning of the images they see. Right off the bat I found myself quarreling a bit with his arguments. I don't think it's quite fair to say that words are valued over images in our society. Everyone knows images are powerful, and every day we stare at images on TV screens, computer screens, phone screens, and advertisements on buses and billboards and so forth. I think it's less that we're not taught to interpret images, and more that we're not taught to interpret, period. Our culture could definitely benefit from all of us looking harder at both the words we're reading and the images we're seeing.
But Greenaway quickly moves on from this point to another one: that the painting The Night Watch, if looked at carefully and interpreted correctly, can be shown to contain an accusation of murder. Throughout the rest of the film, Greenaway takes us through 30 separate clues hidden in the painting and describes what they really mean.
But Greenaway's analysis of the painting feels less like an educated interpretation and more like a wild conspiracy theory. He tells us this character looks like a devil, this one is shorter than that one, and that one looks like a male dwarf disguised as a female child. He tells us this one is holding a right-handed glove, even though his left hand is bare (it looks like a left-handed glove to me). He tells us this one is holding a coffee pot referring back to an earlier scandal (I don't see any coffee pot in the painting). But what does any of this mean? Certainly none of it is proof of murder. They're all odd details, and there is a kind of accusatory bent to them, but they don't add up to much as far as I can see. Greenaway also tells us that the painting once contained two other characters who are important to the story, but that part of the painting was cut off and has never been found. But then how is he showing it to us? How does he know what it looked like, or that those two people were even in the painting? He spends a lot of time explaining certain things, but seems to avoid explaining the really important ones. He does offer incredibly specific details about the people in the painting, and speaks of their murder plot as if it's fact, but none of the really damning details or facts are contained in the actual painting; he brings them out of thin air without any explanation for how he knows them. Is the murder a well known historical fact, and Greenaway's point is just that the painting includes an accusation, and it's this accusation that destroyed Rembrandt's career? Perhaps. But then why not mention that?
Greenaway includes what appear to be well-acted and filmed dramatic reenactments of the events the painting is supposed to be about, but then talks over the actors as if his narration is far more important than the dialog he had his actors recite. Why even film the reenactments if you're not really going to use them? The movie as a whole is certainly intelligently written, often wryly funny, and occasionally convincing, but it's also odd, pompous, and quite frustrating.
I ultimately found myself unconvinced by Greenaway's theory. In fact, by the end of the film I was no longer sure if he even believed in it himself. Is his real point perhaps that we are so visually illiterate that he can twist what we're seeing with his words until we believe even the crazy lies he's telling us?
I'm not usually a fan of John Woo's films (they're usually too cheesy and melodramatic for me), but when I saw he was doing a period war epic with wushu elements, starring Tony Leung, I couldn't resist. The story's villain is the ambitious General Cao Cao (whose name is rather unfortunately pronounced "Chow-chow," a fact which made me snort the first time I heard the name spoken aloud). Cao Cao bullies the Emperor into supporting wars against any who would oppose him. But once he is strong enough, Cao Cao intends to overthrow the Emperor, as well, and take control of China. The noble Generals of the Southlands cannot let this happen, and so, even though they are outnumbered, they resolve to join in an uneasy alliance against Cao Cao and make their last, desperate stand at the fortress at Red Cliff.
The movie is quite long, a bit slow at times, and, as I expected, a bit melodramatic. The editing is also occasionally confusing, leaving it unclear as to where and when we are, and whether the soldiers we're looking at are the heroes or the villains. But the movie is nowhere near as melodramatic as other films of its type, and it's quite well made in pretty much every other way. The characters are interesting, and their careful planning, strategy and tactics are clever and fascinating. The battles themselves are exciting; the special effects impressive. In a particularly thrilling battle sequence in the first half of the film, it's revealed that the generals have the superhuman abilities typical of legendary kung fu warriors. This was probably my favorite part of the movie, and I wish we'd gotten to see more of this type of fighting. But as it is, the other war scenes were nearly as well done. There's the strong feeling throughout that we're looking at ancient legends and myths playing out before our eyes, which gives the action a sense of weight and power - a feel of the archetypal. Still, as impressive as these mythical battles are, they would not work if it weren't for the fact that Woo continually brings things back down to the personal, human element, and thus keeps the action emotionally effective.
I can't call Red Cliff a great film, but it is as strong an entry in the epic wushu war genre as I've ever seen.
|Sunday, October 11, 2009 05:19 PM|
| by Fëanor|
Fëanor pours the entire internet into the Recyclotron, and only the best links come out the other end for you to enjoy.
- See above for video of a slightly creepy insectile robot. (Via)
- Five TV shows the folks at TV.com would love to see on the big screen. I'm not sure Dollhouse would work as a movie, but I'd go see it. (Via)
- A public domain collection of downloadable films noir. (Via)
- The anti-LOLcats: AverageCats. (Via)
- How do you make the tunnel ride in Willy Wonka even more disturbing? Run it in reverse! (Via)
- Five great book trailers.
- A rather fantastic "Are you a Lovecraftian horror?" flowchart. (Via Jill)
- Legendary Pictures picked up the rights to Warren Ellis' Gravel comic book, which is about a hard-ass British combat magician. Ellis himself will write the first draft of the screenplay, and serve as executive producer. I'm a fan of the Gravel books, and I can definitely see them making good movies. Should be interesting! (Via)
- An appreciation of Ian McKellan's Richard III by Roger Ebert. (Via)
- You can look through the entire book Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess online for free! Very cool stuff. (Via)
- Sounds like that whole thing about bloggers getting fined for not mentioning freebies when reviewing something was just paranoia. Whew. (Via)
- The ASCII-animated death of Jar Jar Binks. (Via)
- The zombie apocalypse in LEGO. (Via)
- The bad news is that the release of Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods has been delayed until January of 2011. The good news is it's being delayed so it can be converted to 3D!! Excellent. (Via)
- Lars Von Trier's next project will be a psychological disaster movie called Planet Melancholia. All Von Trier will say about the plot is, "No more happy endings!" Like his other movies were happy??
- Ten TV spin-offs that were better than the original shows. (Via)
- Check out this fantastic image of many famous characters from '50s sci-fi and horror films all standing together.
- Director Roland Emmerich explains how they're going to handle adapting the Foundation trilogy to film: consolidate the characters.
- It's official: Ivan Reitman, the director of the first two Ghostbusters films, will also direct Ghostbusters 3. The new film will open with the team reopening their ghostbusting service after it's been closed for some years.
- We also have a director and plot synopsis for the next Resident Evil movie. Paul W.S. Anderson is back. Apparently Alice and friends head to LA expecting a safe haven, only to discover it's a trap and the city is overrun by the undead.
- The Mountain Goats put out a limited-edition, vinyl-only EP about a secret organ-harvesting colony on the moon. Damn, wish I could get my hands on that!
- A new study suggests that Jupiter's moon Europa could support animal life.
- With nanotechnology, we could create miniaturized nuclear weapons which would have virtually no fallout, and which could be triggered by a super-laser. Greeeaaat.
- A fun clip from an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold wherein Neil Patrick Harris guest stars as a supervillain named the Music Meister who forces supervillains and superheroes alike to engage in a song and dance number.
- 7 supervillains io9 wouldn't mind taking over the world and why. Cinematical has a similar post: top 5 villains too charismatic for their own good.
- The ABCs of Wolverine. Fantastic!
- Unused concept art for Dumbledore's funeral. I thought they might sneak Dumbledore's funeral into the beginning of the first Deathly Hallows film, but the feeling I get from this is that they're just not going to do it at all. That's kind of a shame, although I understand why they felt like they had to cut it.
- Best haircut ever?
- Amphibious WaterCar!
- Incredible footage of bullet impacts at 1,000,000 frames per second.
- Look out! Bullet Bills!
- Mug with a cookie shelf! Genius!
- The 6 most awesome Stephen King horror films, plus 3 that sucked.
- Some interesting details about the Cowboys and Aliens film. The writers are watching classic Westerns for inspiration.
- Man, it would be cool if J.J. Abrams could get Peter Graves and/or Leonard Nimoy for the next Mission: Impossible movie.
- Female screen scientists charted according to hotness and plausibility. Clever idea, although I quarrel with some of the placements.
- The BBC is holding a contest for 6-12 year olds to redesign the TARDIS control panel.
- Fantastic images: Imperial Rodeo and an outage page. (Via)
- A Lovecraftian Return of the Jedi.
- A review of Bronson, a film I'm looking forward to seeing at the Philadelphia Film Festival.
- Kristen Bell has joined the cast of Cristina Aguilera's burlesque movie. She's going to play Cristina's rival. Wowza.
- The Russians are going to send life to one of the moons of Mars and then get it back and see how it handled the trip.
- The top ten "sleep" photos as decided by the readers of Wired.
- The top five Joss Whedon characters. (Via)
- 16 gruesome horror movie posters.
- Seven secrets known only to two living people, and the heads of Doctor Doom and The Thing fashioned out of steel. (Via)
- Bryan Singer could come back and direct another X-Men-related movie.
|Tagged (?): Aliens (Not), Animals (Not), Art (Not), Automobiles (Not), Batman (Not), Books (Not), Cartoons (Not), Cats (Not), Comedy (Not), Comic books (Not), Doctor Who (Not), Dollhouse (Not), Gravel (Not), Harry Potter (Not), Joss Whedon (Not), LEGO (Not), Links (Not), Lists (Not), LOLCats (Not), Lovecraft (Not), Movies (Not), Philadelphia Film Festival (Not), Photography (Not), Products (Not), Recyclotron (Not), Robots (Not), Science (Not), Shakespeare (Not), Space (Not), Star Wars (Not), Technology (Not), Toys (Not), TV (Not), Video (Not), Warren Ellis (Not), Wolverine (Not), X-Men (Not), Zombies (Not)|