8 Reviews
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Nienasycenie (2003)
A tame but enjoyable adaptation of a frightening masterpiece
14 April 2010
Insatiability (Nienasycenie) is a novel that deserved a better adaptation than this one, which out of low production values and an excess of loyalty to the novel, is a tepid storyline that the random viewer might despise. However, this movie is certainly entertaining, and to a reader of a novel, it is an enjoyable way to re-hear the incredible story of "Insatiability."

Protagonist Genezip Kapen is 18 at the start of the movie and he quickly ascends to Bohemian circles of artists and philosophers who scream senseless philosophical quips at each other. We follow "Zip," or "Zipcio," through his journeys into sexual decadence, a military career, and other events. He encounters a rambling composer who's constantly at his piano, an aristocratic woman who is a sexual predator, an actress who tortures men mentally and physically, all while fears spread across post-World War I Central Europe that the "Chinese Flood" is invading, having proceeded West like a wall across the continent.

The novel in some ways eerily predicted Stalinism and Communist brainwashing. Witkiewicz even commit suicide in 1939, as the Soviet Union invaded Poland, some say as his fears came true. But the core story, of the complex interweaving European philosophies in that era, remains clear in the movie.

There are some key tonal shifts in character from the book that the movie omits, which is a disappointment. And again, it would be nice if it had been more creative and perhaps diverged from the book more. Also, if the production had a higher budget than a deadwood episode.

I recommend it, but be warned, there is graphic nudity, sex, BDSM scenes, even coprophagy, in this film.
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Fabulous Follow-up to 'Brick' Wows, Exceeds Expectations
22 February 2010
Fresh-faced writer-director Rian Johnson does the unthinkable with his follow-up to 2005 cult hit "Brick," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt: he actually outdoes himself, by again creating a fantastical yet believable universe with cinematic fiction. "The Brothers Bloom" is as ambitious as second films get -- it's about everything and nothing, with a plot that takes its characters trotting across Europe in an era that could be 2010 but which at times seems more like 1810, as they contemplate the meaning of life and art.

This film would not have worked without its incredible cast. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo throw themselves full-on into the story, Rachel Weisz is again at the top of the form as the dreamlike, beautiful and haunting Penelope; and the supporting cast from Rinko Kikuchi to Robbie Coltrane are also having lots of fun along the ride. The original soundtrack is beautiful; the photography is beautiful, dynamic, colorful and daring; what is there to complain about?

Actually, quite a bit. There are holes in the plot, certain logical inconsistencies, and a general feeling that the film has more "heart" than "head," if I can put it that way. It's a bit confusing and the plot can buck you if you're not careful. However, after a second viewing I found that the plot does make sense, if you pay attention; and if you'll let it get into your head, there are rewarding depths of profundity and meaning in the tiniest details. This is a film to be watched again and again.

That said, I found the film to be so enjoyable and so original that it earns a 10/10 despite its flaws -- like a brief hint of a plot with a supposed nemesis that goes absolutely nowhere (save in the deleted scenes). I would also like to comment that the DVD has the best behind- the-scenes featurette of any DVD I've seen; instead of a hodgepodge of scenes from the movie you just watched, it's sincere, fun fly-on-the- wall hand-held footage of the actors and crew hard at work. We can't wait to see what this wunderkind does with his next project, Looper, which "is set in a present-day world in which a group of hit men are sent their victims from the future."
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Delpy aims for cinematic success, and knocks it out of the park
8 October 2009
I first heard about this movie from my parents, who said they were surprised by how raunchy the film was. I saw it and loved it, and didn't find it too dirty at all -- although the naked pictures with balloons were a bit weird. Say no more, you'll have to see the movie to get that reference. Julie Delpy, writing, directing, editing, and starring as lead Marion, is a great neurotic photographer in the spirit of a Woody Allen film, and Adam Goldberg, as Jack, is her neurotic interior designer boyfriend.

The film is simple in its plot, but I think Delpy's just so good she makes it look easy. After an anticlimactic romantic getaway in Venice, a frustrated Jack and Marion stop for 2 days in Paris before returning to New York. Right off the bat, the dialogue is fast and funny, with a hilarious scene with Jack encountering some American tourists from the heartland. Jack meets Delpy's eccentric family, her beautiful sister, and her artistic friends and many ex-boyfriends -- leading him into hilarious fits of jealousy.

Overall, the film is great fun and has a brain. Delpy strikes a good balance of showing the positives and negatives of her home country and the U.S. -- for example, the French are a classy, exciting people, but cab drivers make openly racist jokes -- it's still a slightly backwards place. Adam is a stereotypical New York guy -- half Jewish, half Catholic, with hipster tattoos all over his body, slightly whiny, but acerbically funny and cynical. In one scene, when Marion takes him on the Paris metro, he begins tensing up with fear, and starts talking about 9/11. It's a sensitive moment that people outside NYC wouldn't really understand. But then his fear manifests itself, when a creep on the train stares openly and lustfully at Marion. Jack tries to scare him off, gives up, and it ends up being a funny moment that scares away fear with laughter. Delpy's wonderful touch with these delicate moments makes the movie a winner, even though the ending feels like it could have gone either way and probably came off the editing room floor. A film this good doesn't need a better ending -- you kind of wish it just kept going.
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One of Balbanov's most stylish films
31 March 2009
I saw this film last night, and I must say it completely captivated me. Two bizarre men, Johan and Ivan, who photograph women being whipped, infiltrate their way into two upper-class families.

The photography is fantastic and the sepia tones are captivating. St. Petersburg looks like it has come alive from circa 1910, as do all of the shots of buildings and towns. Parts of the film are shot in "silent film" style, and I wouldn't have minded if it was silent -- visually, it's stunning and completely worth your hour and a half of time just as a silent film. In addition, the acting is great (as someone else said, great facial acting: the camera often lingers on a character's face for a lengthy shot). Each actor seems perfect in their unique role. I don't want to give anything away, but these actors will surprise you with their characters. And of course, the acting hangs on the writing, which is brilliant. The dialogue is incredibly sparse and minimal and yet moves the story along rather quickly. I couldn't ask for more. As for the spanking, there is a lot of it in this movie. The scenes are somewhat erotic, more often they're shocking and funny. if this would disturb you, stay away from this film. If you have a good sense of humor or just enjoy it, then feel free. Lastly, Balbanov is a great director (if you have not seen Grus-200, do so as soon as you can!) and a gifted writer. His stories of Russian life ring with a quality of realism...some tend to see an allegory for soviet life in his work. Perhaps that's true for this film as well...
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Sweet movie
10 August 2008
I first heard about "Bigga than Ben: A Russian's Guide to Ripping off London" in the The St. Petersburg Times while living in Russia two years ago. The movie is based on a book of the same title (now out of print and impossible to find) by Sergei Sakin and Pavel Tetesky. The book was somewhat of a cult hit, and was criticized in England for encouraging people to defraud the system and telling them exactly how to do it. Sakin and Tetesky fell apart after the book was published and seem to disagree over who even wrote some of it, but it was definitely co-authored.

Leaving Russia, Cobaka and Spikker are amazed by the material wealth of England, but also daunted by the task of establishing themselves in London. We follow them through their various misadventures, some of which are hilarious. The story never builds to a big climax, but I think that would have been unrealistic. The film stays true to its roots and its gritty low-budget look fits the story well. The only thing I found wanting was information about their scams and how they pulled them off - for instance the book supposedly contains a lot of calling card scams that weren't really in the movie.

This movie is cheap, short, funny, and good. Its a great film for any English-speakers who also speak Russian or are interested in Russia. And above all, Andrei Chadov (if you haven't see ZHIVOY, run, don't walk, to your video store and get it) and Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian), both put in awesome performances. They have a great chemistry and I can't imagine better casting for these roles - they also look a lot like the real-life duo, who are shown in a photo during the end credits. I'm hoping for Bigga than Ben 2!
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Sweet Jane (1998)
Touching, beautiful, but forgotten film
24 July 2008
I rented this movie on netflix with my sister, and though neither of us expected to enjoy it, we were both quickly sucked in by the heartfelt, passionate acting. Both Samantha Mathis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt do a great job, Gordon-Levitt especially impressive despite being so young.

I feel like this film gave me the same deep satisfaction that a really good play can give you. The story is fascinating and moving, the characters are lovable and real, and when it ends, you wish there was more you could watch - a sequel, another movie, just something else with these characters. Luckily Mathis and Gordon-Levitt can be seen in lots of other great movies.

Definitely give it a chance - I won't spoil any of the surprises in the plot, but even at moments when you think it's going to be corny or dumb, it maintains an interesting and real atmosphere. There are interesting literary and cultural references dotted throughout the movie, and I think its a really well-written screenplay. Give it a chance and enjoy!
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The Last Kiss (2006)
Definitely not going to "last"
17 July 2008
This film is a pretty stereotypical, 20-something friends "come-of-manhood in marriage, relationships with women and selves" sort of film, loosely inspired by woody Allen marital dramatics and ruminations on extra-marital affairs. It probably only gathered the money to be made on the strength of leading man Zach braff's garden state success, but in this movie is acting is pretty much exactly as it was in that movie: wooden, awkward. This film however has no storyline about a childhood of lithium-induced emotional deadness or over-prescription on drugs to rationalize that, though.

Film has a pretty good cast - even features drama between an older couple. But generally the plot is unrealistic and poorly written. A lot of the plot devices seemed poorly thought of, like someone based this on an idea they had while eating a bagel, or it was based on real-life events, but re-done around some do-it-yourself screen writing guide's tips on structure and etc. And the ending is terrible. It just all seems like it wouldn't really happen - Rachel bilson's horny co-ed is especially bad. 'oh no, Zach braff has gone to a crazy college party. he's lusting for this girl, but afraid of this world. he should just stick with his wife.' thats how it begins, and little changes. Jacinda Barret gives it her all as Zach's wife, but frankly, her scenes are painfully bad to watch. but at least tom Wilkinson has a cool accent, standing in for Ian holm as father figure. Also, weird bad soundtrack.

However, why did I watch this movie? Two reasons, one called Casey affleck and one called Michael weston. Michael weston, well-remembered as the insane hitch-hiker who tortures Michael C. Hall in Six Feet Under, has his usual crazy presence and is always fun to watch perform. His story is endearing and sympathetic. Casey Affleck, an actor who's been really coming into his own lately, is great - his role, I believe, is the most believable, and thus his ending is the most painfully dissatisfying and irritating. But maybe in years to come this film will be remembered by people wanting to watch young Casey.

6/10, barely above 5, doesn't really deserve to be watched unless you're totally bored and alone and have literally NOTHING to do but watch this on HBO.
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The Happening (2008)
Another hit from Shyamalan
17 June 2008
Shyamalan self-deprecatingly described "The Happening" as the best b-movie ever, and that description fits really well. You won't be moved or touched by emotional poignance or be blown away by an astonishing twist at the end. However it will definitely scare the heck out of you.

I am a big Shyamalan fan and find the constant hatred for his movies a bit weird and one-sided, like some group-hysteria phenomenon. Suddenly all critics despise him (panning this movie, I heard it got 11% on and moviegoers follow them like sheep. Its similar to the mass-hatred of Jonathan Safran Foer. I understand some people hate him, but honestly, 11%? Compared to Hulk, or "Whatever Happens in Vegas," or Spiderman 3, or "The Good Shepherd", or a million other pointless movies? While the typical blockbuster is a concept or gimmick film, Shyamalan creates real stories, with real characters.

As the movie builds up speed, the suspense rachets higher and higher. The disease is terrifying, and as we see different people killed by it, the symptoms - stopping walking mid-stride - become scarier and more horrible each time you see them. I won't give any scary surprises away, but there were dozens of moments when my heart stopped, and I'm still frightened by the movie a week later.

However, there are also plenty of moments of comedic relief - reinforcing Shyamalan's classification of this movie as a b-movie. Mark Wahlberg has great timing, and stops for a couple of hilarious moments throughout the movie, no matter how grisly the events are. I really appreciated this - nothing in the middle of horror like a few good laughs, Wahlberg talking to a plant and so on. There were also some moments that were perhaps inadvertently hilarious - but if S. was making a B movie, why can't it all be funny? Stop listening to the critics. Try watching Lady in the Water, Village, or Unbreakable again. See this movie for some fast fun thrills without the agonizing idiocy of typical Hollywood.
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