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Tip Top | Review

23 December 2014 9:30 AM, PST

Vive La France!: Bozon Returns With a Strangeness

Actor turned director Serge Bozon is the most visible member of a small coterie of filmmakers operating independently outside of the French film system, including names like Marc Fitoussi, Axelle Ropert, Jean-Paul Civeyrac, each with several credits to his name, though generally without international distribution. Critic Scott Foundas penned a succinct and incredibly worthwhile write-up on this group several years back, not too long after Bozon’s third feature La France (2007) broke through the distribution fog. Discussing terms like New New Wave, etc, and the dangers of bracketing clusters of filmmakers with such labels, there is a distinct flavor to their films as we witness slick sidestepping and reinvention of narrative form and motif, at least enough to note a similar temperament amongst their works (perhaps something more like Frayed Wave works better). Bozon’s latest genre mash, Tip Top, which »

- Nicholas Bell

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The Japanese Dog | Review

23 December 2014 9:00 AM, PST

Echoes of Autumn: Jurgiu’s Understated Debut Tender, Unmemorable

Inevitably, it’s difficult to consider the merits of Romanian director Tudor Cristian Jurgiu’s directorial debut The Japanese Dog without first positioning it within the context of the current output of Jurgiu’s peers, many of whom belong and have flourished in the framework established by the New Romanian Wave. Simple, sort of tender, and not without a subtle blend of layered meaning, many will (and have) compared the film, mostly unfavorably, to the works of Yasujiro Ozu, wherein in delicate, incredibly fragile familial emotions interweave within the confines of simplistic narrative. Yet Jurgiu’s film feels much to sleight of hand and shirks from the responsibility of going beyond the superficiality of its sentiments.

Costache (Victor Rebengiuc) is a crusty curmudgeon, a man who mostly keeps to himself in his small village. Recently, it seems a major flood has »

- Nicholas Bell

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1,000 Times Goodnight | DVD Review

23 December 2014 8:00 AM, PST

Released for a two week autumn window stateside via the Film Movement folks, winner of three awards, including Best Film at the Amanda Awards (Norwegian Oscars), Erik Poppe’s English language directorial debut 1,000 Times Goodnight, was a noticeable item due the internationally renowned cast that’s headlined by a masterful performance from Juliette Binoche.

Basically a family melodrama hedged by topical issues, Poppe’s own experiences as a war photographer serve as the semi-autobiographical impetus for the film, which is perhaps why it’s presented with such nuance. Bolstering the importance of such a hazardous occupation, the film’s tense juxtaposition lies in how one reconciles working in such dangerous conditions while trying to raise a family. Obviously changing his own perspective to that of a mother ups the dramatic potential, and is met with a terrifically inspired performance from Binoche. A photojournalist that specializes in conflict zones, Rebecca (Binoche »

- Nicholas Bell

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Girlmancing the Stone: So Yong Kim Sets Jena Malone & Riley Keough on Road Trippy “Lovesong”

22 December 2014 3:15 PM, PST

Actresses Riley Keough, Jena Malone and a supporting cast comprised of Brooklyn Decker, Amy Seimetz, Marshall Chapman, Ryan Eggold and Rosanna Arquette have all boarded Lovesong, So Yong Kim’s fourth feature film. Deadline reports the road trip romance will film in Tennessee, and will be produced by Alex Lipschultz, Bradley Rust Gray, David Hansen, and Johnny Mac. Mynette Louie, Laura Rister, and Gamechanger FilmsJulie Parker Benello, Dan Cogan, Geralyn Dreyfous, and Wendy Ettinger will executive produce.

Gist: Co-written by Kim and hubby Bradley Rust Gray, this is the tale of best friends Sarah (Keough) and Mindy (Malone) who take off on an impromptu road trip with Sarah’s young daughter in tow and see their deep BFFship develop into a surprising romance – despite the fact that Mindy is about to get married.

Worth Noting: Keough and Malone have previously worked with the Bradley Rust Gray and So Yong Kim team. »

- Eric Lavallee

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Song of the Sea | Review

22 December 2014 1:30 PM, PST

Of Myth and Men: Moore Dons Skin of the Irish Selkies To Craft Stunning Children’s Tale of Family Heritage

You can probably count the number of independent animation studios still making successful culturally specific feature films on a pair of hands, and Studio Ghibli, Aardman Animations, and the Irish production company Cartoon Saloon can be tallied among them. Melding Irish myth with a wash of cinematic reference points that pay homage and inspire in equal measure, director Tomm Moore and his army of inventive artists and animators at Cartoon Saloon have crafted a wonderously imaginative film in Song of the Sea, which lifts from folk stories of the legendary ‘selkies’ that live as humans on land and seals at sea to form a sensorially stunning commentary on the importance of storytelling and unified kinship.

Much like the devastating prologue of Up or the moment of heartbreaking truth in Bambi, »

- Jordan M. Smith

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Leviathan | Review

22 December 2014 11:00 AM, PST

On the Waterfront: Zvyagintsev’s Sprawling Opus of a Modern, Devouring Regime

Back with his fourth feature, Leviathan, Russian auteur Andrey Zvyagintsev succeeds in cinematic sublimity with this multilayered and operatic exploration of the crushing corruption of an unchecked regime. While each of his films have taken home prestigious awards (The Return won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2003, The Banishment snagged Best Actor at Cannes in 2007 while 2011’s Elena roped the Special Jury Prize for Un Certain Regard), this latest feature should solidify his unparalleled ascension as the most important auteur to rise out of Russia since Andrey Tarkovsky. Time may prove his to be the more potent title, a damning examination of the turpitude bred by an archaic and untoward establishment.

Living in the home that he’s built with his own hands on the waterfront of the Barents Sea, Kolya (Alexei Serebryakov), has recently been notified »

- Nicholas Bell

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The Gambler | Review

22 December 2014 10:00 AM, PST

Kens and Dolls: Wyatt Revamps Toback Prose for the Plastic Age

Working steadfastly against the success of Rupert Wyatt’s up-do of The Gambler, which was originally a 1974 film starring James Caan, directed by Karl Reisz, and written by James Toback (based on semi-autobiographical elements), are two distinctive flaws. Firstly, Wyatt and screenwriter William Monahan fail momentously to live up to the gritty, unpleasantly self-sabotaging believability astutely evidenced in the original. Second, Mark Wahlberg’s overly determined performance careens ungraciously into flaunting bourgeoisie privilege in a role that doesn’t quite sit right on the shoulders of a celebrity still shadowed by his ridiculous early 90s persona. While Monahan wrote the role for which Wahlberg scored an Oscar nod eight years ago (2006’s The Departed), his hyper-intelligent, well-bred, successful novelist turned consummate gambler is more often than not unbelievable with Wahlberg in breathy, demure mode, rambling through a series of nicely written bits of misanthropy. »

- Nicholas Bell

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Unbroken | Review

22 December 2014 8:00 AM, PST

Run Rabbit Run: Jolie’s Grimly Serious Pow Reenactment

Beautifully, if sometimes too glossily mounted, Angelina Jolie’s sophomore effort as a director, Unbroken, is too poker faced to enjoy either as a dramatic motion picture or a document of an excruciating, unnecessary experience. That’s not to say there isn’t untoward torture and humans behaving poorly towards one another, but the film, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book about the WWII experience of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, collapses upon itself as merely an incredibly well-intentioned portrait of human resilience. It seems rather untoward to write the film off as dull or uninspiring, and while it certainly has patches that could be described as such, Jolie, directing from a script written by the Coen brothers and Richard Lagravenese, has simply made a very dry, straightforward film about a man whose experiences as a captive of the Japanese army were »

- Nicholas Bell

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