Saturday, December 29, 2012

RECENTLY BEHELD: DECEMBER 2012, PART 1

(1991)


Maybe the oddest Woody Allen film I've yet seen. This follows him as a neurotic bookkeeper who gets dragged into a neighborhood watch on the dangerous night that a serial strangler is at large. There's an ensemble going on behind his worried wanderings; namely prostitutes, circus performers, and vigilantes (lots of faces and names you're sure to recognize). They've all got groups to belong to, he does not seem to fit in anywhere. By the end the film feels the same way.

★★★½
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(2012)



The third feature from Australian Andrew Dominik, further proving that each film of his is drastically different in style than the one before it. What does remain are the heavy but fascinating chunks of dialogue and a directorial vision too big to fit through the front door. Slap on the heavy hand of America's ongoing economic crisis and the presidential election of 2008 as the stage and you have a steamroller message that many will resist. It's far from pleasant, revolting really, but I believe in a medium that should not always try to be. I think it's a dark commentary on our times and country while an explosive crime chronicle in its own right.

★★★★½
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(1979)


I still have many Woody Allen films to catch up with, but this is my favorite of what I've seen. Allen is a man who's heart is lost in the city. There are three women who have taken hold of it (his heart) at different times as of late; he juggles between the memories, fears and desires of everything from romance, art and humanity. It's filmed in uncompromising black-and-white, even though his life couldn't be more grey. At times the storytelling becomes Charlie Chaplin-like, at other times it is as funny/tragic as Shakespeare. 

★★★★★
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(2000)


Here is one of the films I had overlooked from one of our most exciting filmmakers today, Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy"). It takes place in the DMZ that separate the Koreas. There was an incident where some soldiers were killed and so those ever-neutral Swedish are sent in to investigate. The fascinating flashbacks and relationship between the individuals of North and South are deeply marred by embarrassing English-speaking performances.

★★★★
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(2011-12)


There may never have been a better/worse example of having your cake and eating it too. Joel Murray gives a disturbingly notable performance as a man who has had it with today's society and goes on a pistol-popping quest to rid the world of its reality stars, political commentators and the like. Unfortunately a young and incredibly irritating girl named Roxy (playing Bonnie to Murray's Clyde) shows up early and sours the entire affair. It's comedy at its darkest, the first half-hour maybe one of the best commentaries on today's pop culture addicted civilization that I have ever seen. (After seeing this and "Killing Them Softly" this month I don't know what to think about what people think of our country anymore.)

★★½
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(2012)


Tom Cruise fills the title role nicely, though fans of the books have made their disapproval known. I had no existing relationship to the character or story, I went in fresh and this was one of the year's best surprises. A shocking and purely cinematic opening sequence gets this investigative beat going. From the writer of "The Usual Suspects," who also directs here, this film feels very much like it was lifted from the page and placed on the screen with precise pacing. There's as much convention-breaking as there is adherence, but its a smart and satisfying ride all the way through.

★★★★
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(2006)


A horror/comedy about a worm-y alien life that takes over the bodies of the general populace in Small Town, USA. Nathan Fillion plays the cop who is hot for Elizabeth Banks' character. Luckily for him Banks' husband is one of the first to turn. It's disgusting and gory, but I did not find it as entertaining as I thought it would be. The last half-hour especially wears out its welcome.

★★½
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(1991)


Leox Carax's sophomore effort is a love story between two homeless. Nothing is theirs and so the city entire is theirs. Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche are mesmerizing in the unparalleled depths of these unglamorous roles. I've only seen three of Carax's films now, all in the last several weeks. Each is different from another, each is different than anything I've every seen before. The fireworks sequence is creatively sublime.

★★★★½

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