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Now Showing Archive

The Man from London
Béla Tarr's Speed Racer from London

I skipped last week's "Now Showing" because of the San Francisco International Film Festival, although I filed reviews of David Mamet's jiu-jitsu movie, Redbelt, and the British comedy Son of Rambow over at Paste. Opening in theaters this week is the garish, retro, futuristic, earnest, campy, swift, turgid, and exceedingly contradictory Speed Racer. I'm delighted that Paste no longer requires reviewers to assign a star rating to a movie or album; this one might have been tricky.

By delivering important information in aggressively brief bursts, Speed Racer seems to test the limits of human perception, and it's doing this to tell a dumb, insincere story and tickle the neurons of 8-year-olds. How best to boil that disjunction into a number? Don't know, not my problem. The negative reviews are the most fun to read (Hoberman, Edelstein, Lane), but Scott Tobias's torn reaction is closer to my own feeling. He gives Speed Racer a C.

My own review is one of four or five that could have been whittled from my post-screening notes. Here's an also-ran: I happened to see the film within a couple of days of watching Béla Tarr's The Man from London at the SFIFF.

Posted by davis | Link | Other Weekends | Comments (11)

Of the films opening in theaters this week, Deception is the latest high concept disappointment. More worthy of examination and discussion is the new film from Errol Morris, Standard Operating Procedure, which examines the infamous photographs taken at Abu Ghraib. It only opens on two screens, so we'll have our podcast discussion next week. The film is a valuable appendix to the other Iraq documentaries — notably Taxi to the Dark Side — but it's a series of footnotes instead of a clear argument, stirred together with questionable use of the scandal's iconography and an interview technique that builds up and tears down its subjects in equal measure, adding more mud to an already dark puddle.

See below for a list of films currently in theaters, conveniently organized with the cream at the top.

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Boarding Gate
Asia Argento in Boarding Gate (Assayas)

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any. I've filed the new Jackie Chan/Jet Li movie, The Forbidden Kingdom, below.

UPDATE: I've also filed Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed below.

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The Visitor
Richard Jenkins and Hiam Abbas in The Visitor (McCarthy) (photo: JoJo Whilden)

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any. Young@Heart is not in this list because I walked out after about 45 minutes. It's not terrible, but I just couldn't continue, for the same reason I had trouble watching the likes of Mark Romanek treat the career and legacy of an aged Johnny Cash as his video plaything. Something about it doesn't sit well.

Opening in Theaters

  • The Visitor — Thomas McCarthy's quiet drama was a highlight of this year's Sundance (it actually premiered at Toronto before that, but I caught it later). Ed Gonzalez dismisses the film in the first paragraph of his Slant review by boiling each of the opening scenes down to a single adjective and wondering "why Thomas McCarthy didn't just call the thing About Walter." I respectfully submit that changing the title would have fucked the whole thing up. It's a lovely little film, not a masterpiece but the sort of thing I'd like to see more of, and half of the enjoyment comes from watching the title shift its object from scene to scene like a title by the Dardennes. The flaw in Gonzalez's final argument is that it supposes the film's ending is optimistic. [trailer, review, brief thoughts on the Sundance podcast, and I'll revisit the film with J. Robert and the film's writer-director on a future podcast]
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Flight of the Red Balloon
Juliette Binoche in Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou) (photo: Tsai cheng-tai)

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any.

Opening in Theaters

Alert alert alert:

  • Flight of the Red Balloon — The great Hou Hsiao-Hsien, probably one of my two or three favorite contemporary filmmakers, turns in one of the most accessible, most sublime films of his career, and it features a fantastic performance by Juliette Binoche to boot. (It's a pairing that made my head spin when I first heard about it, kind of like when I learned that Isabelle Huppert will be in the next Claire Denis film, but at least they're both French.) When Millennium Mambo, Hou's first film to be distributed in the US, received a cool reception in 2001, I worried that we'd have an even harder time seeing his films here. Mambo was far from his best work, but the easy dismissal of the film's beauty and mystery did not bode well for the American art house. Or so I thought. Café Lumière, Three Times, and now Flight of the Red Balloon have proven me wrong, each one finding a quiet corner of our messy distribution system. This latest one deserves an appreciative audience. [trailer, my comments about the film on our NYFF podcast, an in-depth discussion of his work on an earlier podcast, see also: my "Editor's Pick" review in the April issue of Paste]
  • The Ruins — OK, it's not Hou Hsiao-hsien. And if I were going to watch either of these new films again — once, twice, or twenty-thrice — I'd obviously choose Flight of the Red Balloon. But I'm surprised to say that this horror-thriller is pretty fun. A line we removed from my review at Paste's site: "It's Turistas, but it doesn't suck." [trailer, review]
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A Grin Without a Cat
Chris Marker's A Grin Without a Cat

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any. I felt compelled to see only one of the new films opening nationwide this weekend, for a personal project; I've filed Stop-Loss below.
Posted by davis | Link | Other Weekends | Comments (11)

Last Year at Marienbad
Delphine Seyrig in Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any. I haven't seen any of the new films opening this week, although I am going to catch Drillbit Taylor. Will report back. Meanwhile ...

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Funny Games (US Version)
Michael Haneke's Funny Games (credit: Nicole Rivelli)

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any.

Opening and Expanding This Weekend

  • Funny Games — Michael Haneke remade his own film, virtually shot-for-shot, this time with Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet. He hates us, and I'm not sure what we did to provoke him.
    [trailer, review (link soon)]
  • Snow Angels — It may be my favorite of David Gordon Green's films, although it took me some time to come to that realization. It's his most conventional in structure, but it's still an odd mix of elements.
    [trailer, listen to my chat with Green on this weekend's podcast, see also: my review in the March Paste]
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Paranoid Park
Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park (credit: Scott Green)

Of the movies in theaters and newly available on DVD this weekend, here's what I like, with links to my reviews, if any. And don't forget that Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this weekend.

Opening This Weekend

Wow, the multiplex is a dead zone, but around the fringes we have:

  • Paranoid Park — Gus Van Sant's latest film drifts ever so slightly back toward narrative filmmaking, which makes it easier to enjoy in the moment but maybe a little less rewarding.
    [trailer, my podcast comments from New York and J. Robert's from TIFF, see also: my chat with Van Sant in the March issue of Paste Magazine (Michael Jackson's glove on the cover)]
  • Snow Angels — It may be my favorite of David Gordon Green's films, although it took me some time to come to that realization. It's his most conventional in structure, but it's still an odd mix of elements.
    [trailer, listen to my chat with Green on this weekend's podcast, see also: my review in the March Paste]
  • Married Life — I resisted this period drama by Ira Sachs, trying unsuccessfully to fit it into the noir-ish or screwballsy mold that it seems to ask for, but by the end I appreciated it, mildly, as something else entirely.
    [trailer, review]
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