Monday, April 22, 2013

BLANCANIEVES (2012) movie reviews

Blancanieves (2012) d. Berger, Pablo (Spain)

An exquisite retelling of the classic Snow White fairy tale, filtered through the lens of a once-great matador, his plucky young daughter, and the scheming nursemaid/wicked stepmonster whose vanity threatens to destroy all in her path. Writer/director Berger cultivates an impossibly charming and rich romantic atmosphere, with emotions worn proudly on sleeves and textures and images dancing in concert with Alfonso de Vilallonga's dynamic and purposefully eclectic score.

VANISHING WAVES (aka AURORA) (2012) movie review

Vanishing Waves (aka Aurora) (2012) d. Buozyte, Kristina (Lithuania/France)

Scientists set up an elaborate Altered States-like experiment to see if two separate consciousnesses can interact, allowing a member of their team (Marius Jampolskis) to attempt to psychically synch up with comatose car accident victim Jurga Jutaite. The experiment is a success, in that a connection is made, but when the scientist decides to keep secret certain discoveries from the rest of his colleagues, it threatens both the validity of the test and the safety of its two subjects.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

PIETA (2012) movie review

Pieta (2012) d. Kim, Ki-duk (South Korea)

Jung-Jin Lee commands the screen as an amoral loan shark enforcer who thinks nothing of maiming those who cannot pay their debts, telling them that he will be back to collect the insurance money they receive for their injuries. But when mysterious woman Min-soo Cho appears, claiming to be Lee’s long-absent mother, it ignites a spark of emotion that could prove to be his downfall.

CONFESSION OF MURDER (2012) movie review

Confession of Murder (2012) d. Jeong, Byung-gil (South Korea)

Following the statute of limitations’ expiration, serial killer Si-hoo Park goes public with his heinous deeds by writing a bestselling tell-all; charming and cool, the murderer’s popularity skyrockets with a morbidly fascinated public. Meanwhile, as the cop who allowed Park to slip through his fingers, Jae-yeong Jeong continues to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend, all evidence strongly suggesting she was the rising star’s final act of violence.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I DECLARE WAR (2012) movie review

I Declare War (2012) d. Lapeyre, Jason / Wilson, Robert (Canada)

A wondrous coming-of-age examination of the culture of combat, as inventive in its gimmickry as it is deceptively clear-eyed regarding the hierarchies of childhood. Two group of kids gather on either sides of the forest to play out their ongoing Capture the Flag tournament, undefeated pint-sized master strategist Gage Munroe’s scrappy band facing off against the challengers led by cool intellectual Aidan Gouveia and his tempestuous second-in-command Michael Friend. But the rules of engagement are only effective if both sides adhere, and on this particular day, new terms are being brought to bear – strategies such as “coup,” “torture,” and the most terrifying of all, “girls.”

TRAP FOR CINDERELLA (2012) movie review

Trap for Cinderella (2012) d. Softley, Iain (UK)

After surviving a traumatic fire, heiress-to-be Tuppence Middleton undergoes extensive plastic surgery to restore her crisped visage. She emerges lightly scarred but more than palatable, minus any recollection of her former life. As she attempts to reassemble her fractured existence by reuniting with various friends and family members, she stumbles across the diary of best friend Alexandra Roach who succumbed to the flames.

OBLIVION (2013) movie review

Oblivion (2013) d. Kosinski, Joseph (USA)

In the years following an alien attack that has left Earth a barren wasteland, skeleton crew members Tom Cruise and redhead Andrea Riseborough remain stationed above the surface to maintain the hydro-generators powering newly installed reactors on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, where the rest of the surviving populace has relocated. Their days and nights are kept lively defending the pyramid-shaped structures from residual alien “scavenger” crafts, but complications arise when ancient (i.e. early 21st century) space debris plummets to the planet’s surface bearing strange cargo indeed.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

THE FOREST (2012) (aka EL BOSC) (2012) movie review

Forest, The (aka El Bosc) (2012) (1st viewing) d. Aibar, Oscar (Spain)

A strange and moving tale set during the Spanish Civil War that captures some of the same magic as Guillermo del Toro’s dark twins (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth). Stubborn young farmer Alex Brendemuhl refuses to kowtow to his village’s radical leanings; when the revolution begins, he is forced to go into hiding with his dedicated wife Raquel Dalmases attempting to keep him supplied with food and drink. But every six months, there is a special, magical phenomenon that occurs in a small grove in their field that allows for an unusual form of eluding capture. A thoughtful and human examination of the effects of war that manages to be both universal and intensely personal.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dr. AC's 2013 Oscar Rundown

2013 Academy Awards Nominees

Just in the nick of time, here is my completely subjective take on the Oscar race.  These are not in any way to be seen as my handicapping, so don’t blame me if you don’t walk off with the office pool.  Who does win is completely out of my control.  Who I feel should win?  That’s another story, and I’ve noted my picks with an asterisk (*). 

Read on…

Best Picture

Thursday, February 21, 2013

LOOPER (2012) movie review

Looper (2012) (1st viewing) d. Johnson, Rian (USA)

An intriguing time travel flick that turns into an apocalyptic sci-fi nightmare about 2/3 of the way through…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a shady assassin that gangsters of the future hire to kill and dispose of their enemies by zapping them back to the past, a career choice that takes a nasty turn when his future self (embodied by Bruce Willis) pops up in his sight on the appointed cornfield tarp.

TATTOO (1981) movie review

Tattoo (1981)  d. Brooks, Bob (USA)

Before taking another visit to the inkman, you might want to bust out this studio-endorsed bit of exploitation, directed by one-off offender Bob Brooks and scripted by Joyce Bunuel (daughter-in-law to Luis). Bruce Dern turns in another committed nutbar performance, this time as an obsessive tattoo artist who sets his sights on fashion model Maud Adams. When she rejects him, he resorts to abduction, then proceeds to use her unconscious body as a canvas for his increasingly intricate designs.

56 UP (2012) movie review

56 Up! (2012) d. Apted, Michael (UK)

Apted’s astonishing cinematic experiment, checking in with a disparate group of 14 British individuals every seven years, enters its eighth installment and like its subjects remains fascinating even as it settles into a more even keel and acceptance of life. There are still plenty of ups and downs, but we’ve passed the stage of young adult angst and mid-life crises, and entered a stage where one’s children’s problems become more a concern than one’s own. It’s an odd observation considering the entire series is structured upon reflection, of at once looking forward and backward, but this chapter feels more introspective and contemplative than any of its predecessors. Still, it’s exciting to see Peter Davies, who bowed out of his involvement after 28 Up, back on screen and entering a new chapter in life as a member of a new folk rock trio, The Good Intentions.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

LAST DAYS (2005) movie review

Last Days
d. Van Sant, Gus (USA)

Talk about your wildly swinging pendulums. On the one hand, we have the Gus Van Sant that made the edgy My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy. On the other, we have the Hollywood conformist of Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester. (And we won’t even get into that wackjob who remade Psycho.) File this psuedo-docudrama about the imagined final days of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain under “edgy Van Sant.” You can also file it under "nearly impenetrable," thanks to the stylized mumblings of Michael Pitt in the lead role (I actually flipped on the subtitles at times, just to see what we might have been missing).

HATE (aka LA HAINE) (1995) movie review

Hate (aka La Haine) (1995) d. Kassovitz, Mathieu (France)

When Kassovitz’s bracing 1995 feature won the Best Director prize at Cannes, it divided critics into two camps: Those who found it a dazzling, urgent piece of new French realism, and those who dismissed it as slick, Hollywood-influenced attitudinizing. La Haine covers a day in the life after a riot, this one sparked by the hospitalization of an Arab teenager due to police brutality.

Friday, February 15, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY (1980) movie review

Atlantic City
d. Malle, Louis (Canada/France)

Few actors had Burt Lancaster’s sense of masculine grace, and in his aging years, he gave us a couple of wonderful swan songs to remember him by (Local Hero and Field of Dreams come to mind). But Louis Malle’s ode to a city in transition and little people with littler dreams served not only as a showcase for Lancaster as a sad and lonely numbers runner in the titular township, but also provided Susan Sarandon with her first Oscar nomination (not to mention an incredibly memorable opening sequence. I doubt anyone who sees it will be able to slice another lemon the same way again.)

THE LADY EVE (1941) movie review

Lady Eve, The
d. Sturges, Preston (USA)

Preston Sturges works his magic once again in this madcap tale of Pike’s Pale Ale fortune heir/snake aficionado Henry Fonda running into radiant con lady Barbara Stanwyck aboard an NYC bound cruise ship. Duplicitous mayhem and hilarity ensue, aided by a superlative supporting cast that includes Charles Coburn as Stanwyck’s affable and conniving father, the bombastic Eugene Pallette as Pike the elder, and William Demarest as Fonda’s grouchy, irascible aide-de-camp Muggsy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS (1927) movie review

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
d. Murnau, F.W. (USA)

Oscar’s first – and only – winner of the “Best Unique and Artistic Picture” Award. (Wings would take the official “Best Picture” honors, starting the Academy Awards off on their merry history of handing out the top prize based on Hollywood politics as opposed to actual merit - sure, those flying sequences are pretty cool but the rest of the movie? Come on.) Married farmer George O'Brien falls under the spell of The Woman from the City (Margaret Livingston), who tries to convince him to drown his devoted wife Janet Gaynor. With this relatively simple, almost fable-like plot as his canvas, F.W. Murnau (Faust, Nosferatu) unleashed a bevy of groundbreaking techniques that continue to amaze 80 years later.

JARHEAD (2005) movie review

d. Mendes, Sam (USA)

American Beauty director Mendes presents a vivid look at what it was like for US Marines involved in the Desert Shield/Storm engagement with Iraq in 1990-1991. At least, I am guessing that this may have been what it was like, as only those who were there could say for certain. The script by William Broyles, Jr. is adapted from one such Marine, Anthony Swofford. As played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Swofford is a gung ho regular Joe who sits firmly in the middle ground between the macho frat boy killers and intellectual protesters against the madness who seems to make up his onscreen battalion.

SOAPDISH (1991) movie review

d. Hoffman, Michael (USA)

One of the funniest comedies about show business, performed by a superb cast at the top of their game. Set backstage of the fictional soap opera The Sun Also Sets, Sally Field is hilarious as an aging diva, Cathy Moriarty spits nails as her bleached-blonde nemesis on and off screen, Robert Downey, Jr. sails through with stunning verve as the manipulative production manager, and Kevin Kline comes close to topping his Oscar-winning performance in A Fish Called Wanda as a washed-up soap actor doing productions of Death of a Salesman in Florida dinner theatre.

HOT FUZZ (2007) movie review

Hot Fuzz (2007) d. Wright, Edgar (UK)

Fans of Shaun of the Dead will rejoice at this reunion of the creative talents behind the crowd-pleasing zom-rom-com. Star/co-writer Simon Pegg and director/co-writer Edgar Wright set their sights on the Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer school of action blockbusters and deliver the big-boom-bang with a decidedly English flavor.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Airport (1970) d. Seaton, George (USA)
Aiport 1975 (1974) d. Smight, Jack (USA)
Airport ’77 (1977) d. Jameson, Jerry (USA)
Concorde: Airport ’79, The (1979) d. Rich, David Lowell (USA)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

DONNIE DARKO (2001) movie review

Donnie Darko (2001) d. Kelly, Richard (USA)

The other film about a six-foot-tall bunny. But unlike the comic James Stewart vehicle Harvey, writer/director Richard Kelly’s creation is entirely visible to the audience, extremely creepy and known as Frank. Brooding (and mentally ill) teenager Jake Gyllenhaal receives a sleepwalking vision that the world will come to an end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

GILDA (1946) movie review

Gilda (1946) d. Vidor, Charles (USA)

Many younger viewers may only recognize this title as the flick Morgan Freeman and his fellow convicts are watching in The Shawshank Redemption, specifically the scene where Rita Hayworth flips her head up and into the frame, fixing the camera with an alluring grin. Well, believe you me, there’s a lot more to enjoy and Hayworth is outstanding throughout, matched physically and verbally by Glenn Ford as a small-time gambler on the rise in Buenos Aires.

Friday, February 8, 2013

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946) movie review

Great Expectations (1946) d. Lean, David (UK)

After finding success with three consecutive Noel Coward adaptations (This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter), director Lean knocks it out of the park with this astonishingly faithful screen version of the Dickens classic. (Much credit to the five screenwriters assigned the daunting task.)

MOMMIE DEAREST (1981) movie review

Mommie Dearest (1981) d. Perry, Frank (USA)

Don’t expect to find this adaptation of Christina Crawford’s scathing tell-all autobiography of life with mother Joan in the horror section at your local Blockbuster Video or Netflix queue. That said, Faye Dunaway’s towering, bellowing, full-tilt tour-de-force display of matriarchal madness has to qualify among the greatest of female monster performances.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal, The (1985) d. Leibovit, Arnold (USA)

The tragedy is that despite being name-checked in Rocky Horror’s “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, most folks on the street today are sadly ignorant of who George Pal is or of his notable contributions to cinema. Thankfully, this affectionate tribute to the Hungarian-born filmmaker by Arnold Leibovit puts the spotlight on a Tinseltown figure whose list of influential and beloved films include such fantasy and sci-fi classics as 1950’s Destination Moon (the first true Hollywood sci-fi epic), War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, Tom Thumb, The Naked Jungle, and The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, not to mention his groundbreaking work in animation with "George Pal’s Puppetoons" (7 Oscar nominations).

THE LAST LAUGH (1924) movie review

Last Laugh, The (1924) d. Murnau, F. W. (Germany)

F. W. Murnau’s extraordinary silent film manages to tell its entire narrative – with one equally extraordinary exception – from a purely cinematic standpoint, without the use of intertitles. A heartbreaking melodrama about a posh hotel’s aging doorman (Emil Jannings) whose position means everything. When he is removed from his post and sent to work as a washroom attendant, his shame and devastation is profoundly felt by the viewer, touching us in a way that words could only hint at.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WAITRESS (2007) movie review

Waitress (2007) d. Shelly, Adrienne (USA)

Gone-too-soon actor/writer/director Shelly’s final feature is as sweet, satisfying and deceptively simple as the myriad of mouth-watering desserts created by its title character (luminously played by Keri Russell). Trapped in a small Oklahoma town, diner waitress Russell finds herself knocked up by her abusive and smothering man-child of a husband (Jeremy Sisto),

SAME TIME EVERY YEAR (1981) movie review

Same Time Every Year (1981) d. Lincoln, Fred J. (USA)

CAST: (in order of appearance)

Loni Sanders – Nicole (as Loni 'Haiku' Sanders)
Mike Ranger – Michael
Lynx Canon – Alice (as Jean Damage)
Paul Thomas – Robert
Tiffany Clark – Melissa
Michael Morrison – Jason
Ron Jeremy – Ed the Chauffeur
Herschel Savage – Tony (as Joel Caine)
Holly McCall – Jogger
China Leigh – Lisi
Lee Carroll – Blonde with Robert
Starr Wood – Liz (as Star Would)
Boo the Wonder Horse – Alice's Horse
Blake Palmer – Blond Car Mechanic
Jerry Wad – Brunette Car Mechanic
Phaery Burd – Girl with Jason (as Isolde)
Coral Cie – Anne
Kathy Harcourt – Anne's Friend

Ranger, Thomas and Morrison head off on a trip to their annual “lawyer’s convention,” leaving

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

TREKKIES (1997) / TREKKIES 2 (2004) movie review

Trekkies (1997) d. Nygard, Roger (USA)

We all know one. We might even be one ourselves. But director Roger Nygard’s hilarious and affectionate examination of the universe’s most ardent Star Trek fans allows them the opportunity to prove themselves as ultimately human as the rest of us, even when they’re speaking Klingon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

WHAT IS IT? (2005) movie review

What Is It? (2005) d. Glover, Crispin Hellion(USA)

Actor and professional oddball Crispin Glover weaves a hallucinatory spell in his directing debut, utilizing a cast composed primarily of performers with Downs Syndrome, with support by performance artist/writer Adam Parfrey, cerebral palsy sufferer Steven C. Stewart, Glover himself and…snails. Lots and lots of snails, many of which meet their untimely demises via salt shakers or clenched fist in extreme close-up, providing some of the most unexpectedly troubling images I’ve seen (and considering my film genre of choice

IT IS FINE! EVERYTHING IS FINE. (2007) movie review

It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. (2007) d. Glover, Crispin Hellion / Brothers, David (USA)

In the second installment of the “It” trilogy, producer/editor/director Crispin "Hellion" Glover returns to the world of the weird with equally frustrating and groundbreaking results. Working this time with a co-director (David Brothers) and from a script by cerebral palsy-afflicted writer Steven C. Stewart, Glover tells the head-shaking story of a handicapped serial killer (Stewart) who seduces his female victims with his disabilities, then

BLACK SNAKE MOAN (2006) movie review

Black Snake Moan (2006) d. Brewer, Craig (USA)

What the marketing department was thinking on this one? While the subject matter, “Black man chains up white woman,” certainly makes for sassy poster art, the themes and heart of the movie are miles away from its exploitation material appearances. After being brutally beaten, sex-addict Christina Ricci (looking smoking hot and wearing very little in the way of clothing) is taken in by blues guitarist-turned-farmer Samuel L. Jackson, who chains her to his radiator to help her shed her “evil” ways.

Friday, February 1, 2013

SERENA: AN ADULT FAIRY TALE (1980) movie review

Serena: An Adult Fairy Tale (1980)
d. Lincoln, Fred J. (USA)

(in order of appearance)

China Leigh – Fairy Godmother
Serena – Cindy
Natasha Raphael – Brunette Prostitute #1
Gary Baron – Restrained Lover
Dorothy LeMay (as Norma Gene) – Blonde Prostitute
Lee LeMay – Blonde Prostitute’s Lover
Valerie Darlyn (as Lotta Leggs)  – Diane the Madame
Jamie Gillis – Mr. Thomas
Blair Harris – Godmother’s Lover
Paul Thomas – Prince Charles
Marlene Munroe – Brunette Prostitute #2

Screenwriter Daniel Webster’s modern and very threadbare retelling of the Cinderella myth with the attractive

KISS ME DEADLY (1955) movie review

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) d. Aldrich, Robert (USA)

Wow. Mix Mickey Spillane with a little atomic paranoia and you’ve got a recipe for fast-paced, two-fisted, tough-talking thrills, with a climactic sock to the jaw that rivals anything I’ve seen in a long, long time. Ralph Meeker, who would wind up his career fighting aliens and giant rats in Without Warning and Food Of The Gods, is outstanding as taciturn private eye Mike Hammer. One catches glimpses of Jack Nicholson and Kevin Costner in his performance – the nice looking guy who’s revealed to be a hardened heel through and

Thursday, January 31, 2013

ROLLING THUNDER (1977) movie review

Rolling Thunder (1977) (2nd viewing) d. Flynn, John (USA)

At first glance, this is a solid piece of 70s vigilante/revenge exploitation. In fact, the opening half hour (minus the gooey “San Antonio” theme song) is a genuinely contemplative, returning-Vietnam-veteran drama, pre-dating The Deer Hunter and Coming Home by a full year, with hardened POW Major Charles Rane (William Devane) tentatively reuniting with his family after years of isolation. But after hoodlums murder his wife and son, leaving him with a bloody stump for a hand following a garbage disposal close encounter, the stereotypical track-down-and-kill-the-baddies stage is set, especially once Devane starts sharpening up his metal amputee hook and

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI (2010) movie review

Boy and His Samurai, A (2010) d. Nakamura, Yoshihiro (Japan)

Through the mysteries of time travel, a handsome young samurai (Ryo Nishikido) appears in modern day Edo where he is taken in by a single mother (Rie Tomosaka) and her six-year-old son (Fuku Suzuki). Our hero predictably becomes the boy’s best friend, protector and substitute dad and while the time-honored stranger-in-a-strange-land comic tropes get their due, it’s after Nishikido has been reasonably indoctrinated into modern society that the film finds its true stride and heart. Scenes of a “Mr. Mom” nature reveal an unlikely culinary superstar, as skilled with a blade in the kitchen as on the battlefield. Once the world comes calling, will he become a stereotypical overworked Japanese male, forgoing family for career? Will he have to choose between his heart and the samurai code? Packed with surprises, smiles, and an array of mouth-watering onscreen edibles sure to send you scurrying to the closest Japanese sweet shop for dessert.

TURN ME ON, DAMMIT! (2011) movie review

Turn Me On, Goddammit! (2011) d. Jacobsen, Jannicke Systad (Norway)

Hormones rage and hypocrisy reigns in a small Norwegian village as seen through the compelling gaze of Alma (winningly played by Helene Bergsholm), an attractive teen preoccupied with sexual fantasies featuring her hunky classmate Matias Myren. When he reciprocates her feelings in amusingly blunt fashion at a school mixer, Alma’s world is turned upside down, rejected by her classmates for publicly proclaiming her potential paramour’s unusual mating tactics. A charming, funny, fresh and emotionally truthful examination of passion and puberty, of hypocrisy and hankering...all with the most emphatic title you're likely to find anywhere.

HAIL (2011) movie review

Hail (2011) (1st viewing) d. Courtin-Wilson, Amiel (Australia)

An aging ex-con struggles to find his way back in the world in a breathtaking, immediate drama from Down Under, “based on the life and stories of Daniel P. Jones," the film’s star. Juxtaposing poetic images with handheld slice-of-life scenarios, with characters sharing the same names as the actors playing them, director Courtin-Wilson works on an almost instinctual level – perfectly in tandem with his extraordinary players who achieve a documentary-like authenticity within their banal to beastly conversations. (Leanne Letch is a marvel as Jones’ longtime companion, lighting up the screen with her unabashed ordinariness.) As tragedy strikes and things grow progressively darker in the final act, Courtin-Wilson’s camera reflects the mood, extreme close-ups and foggy, unfocused screen imagery dominating. A searing character study that dares you to meet its gaze – the reward being sights heretofore unseen. (Yes, I’m talking about the terrifying/beautiful horse scene.)