Reviews written by registered user

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47 reviews in total 
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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
The Two Poles of Survival = Tokyo / Africa, 3 November 2009

Visionary filmmaker Chris Marker creates a portrait of ever encroaching globalization in this 100 minute odyssey between the 'two poles of survival'.

Probably one of the greatest 'avant-garde' films of all time, don't let its classification dissuade you. This is a very simple film with a very simple message: though time changes, what nourishes humanity remains constant, namely love, memory, hope, understanding, recognition and belonging.

The only frustrating thing about this film is that one viewing is not enough. This is a work you will cherish re-watching for years to come.

Direct cinema science-fiction set on Planet Earth.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Knee Slapping Hilarity, 27 October 2009

This would truly be the most hilarious film ever made if it wasn't so tragic. In this 70 minute blast-from-the-past, John Wayne uses everyone from Hitler to Stalin to liberal college professors (gasp!) in an attempt to persuade America not to give up on what was surely one of the most awful, despicable wars ever fought.

Everything Big Duke Wayne says in this right-wing agit-pop has been thoroughly disproved by history but that shouldn't keep you from loving his mouth-frothing reactionary madness.

What's amazing is that W. Bush literally re-iterated the Duke's view during his presidency when he famously said that the real lesson of Vietnam was that the US didn't go FAR ENOUGH!!! In reality, that was probably the only lesson the American-Vietnam War DIDN'T teach us.

Cringe-inducing. Watch it and cry.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Ring of Terrible!!!, 31 March 2009

Ring of Terror is one of those films that, after watching it, you feel compelled to tell everyone you know, if only to warn them about the trouble they will face if they are ever unfortunate enough to cross paths with this piece of total dreck.

Imagine a film noir with no crime crossed with a horror movie with no horror and this is pretty much what you get.

Astonishingly dull in every respect and yes, the college students all seem to be in their forties.

I'd say it's like watching wallpaper dry but that's insulting to wallpaper.

Millhouse (1971)
6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Not as Good As Its Reputation, But Cringe Worthy Nonetheless, 30 March 2009

De Antonio's films, while engaging and highly intelligent, are poorly dated primarily because they assume that their audiences are already very familiar with their subjects. (See his superior "Underground" or "In The Year of The Pig") Aside from that, the biggest problem with this film is that it was made pre-Watergate and for many people of my generation ('90s kids), Watergate was such a defining moment for the Ex-Pres it's hard to imagine a time when he wasn't tainted by it.

Still, after the Swiftboat attacks on Kerry in 04 and the entire 08 election, the fevered criticism of Nixon's "Checkers" speech seems almost naive.

Not as side-splittingly hilarious as its proponents suggest, this film of pre-Watergate Nixon is valuable as a supporting document but unfortunately, it doesn't quite, as a Time Out review exclaimed, "completely expose the true horror of Nixon's personality". Sadly, the world would have to wait another three years for that shock.

Formally this film is excellent and is a good example of the agit-prop documentary. Micheal Moore learned a lot from De Antonio's process.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
High School Confidential, 10 November 2008

Mike Kelley is one of the greatest artists of his generation. If you've ever seen an exhibition of his oddly sinister psychological portraits of plush toys or obsessive post-pop combination paintings you'll know what you're in for here: An absolute maelstrom of implicit and explicit images dredged from the highs and lows of American consumer culture.

Day is Done is not an easy film to describe. All of the action takes place within the confines of a modern Californian high school. The student body made up of cheerleaders, jocks, vampires, witches, skinheads and ballerinas whose only common ground is that they all worship Satan.

They also sing arias, perform pantomimes that are described by inter-titles as 'reconstructions', give stand up routines and argue about race theory.

At three hours Day is Done is not an easy watch, but it is certainly not forgettable and for fans of Kelley, it stands as one of the artist's most unified and powerful works.

5 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Greatest Show On Television, 12 September 2008

This show is one of the most brilliant things on television. It is brutal and unremitting in its depiction of human evil and not at all worried about getting its hands dirty turning out vile losers from coast to coast.

I'm not surprised people hate this show so much. It shows the worst of the worst and doesn't gloss over its subjects with fake sympathy or coddling. Steve Wilkos was a cop and its great watching him browbeat the bullies, criminals and molesters who unwittingly end up on his stage while giving a voice to too-often neglected victims who feel too trapped in their lives to speak out themselves.

Highlight episodes included a young woman who was molested all of her life by her father while her mother knew and covered it up. Steve destroyed them and I believe the father was arrested after the show. Another great episode involved a bunch of trouble teens being shown what life on the streets is really like. Those kids must have wished to God they went on Maury instead, because Steve brings them to a hardcore Chicago ghetto to meet crack smoking prostitutes who live squatting in an abandoned building. One of the prostitutes has no fingertips because she burned them off smoking crack. The other one goes on and on to the 14-15 year old about being sodomized (they say 'satyrized(!)) and being forced to take it because of their desperate need for drugs. The look on the girls' faces is unbelievable.

This show puts a face to the misery and poverty you read about everyday in the newspapers.

Steve Wilkos is an American Hero.

She Beast (1966)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
She-Beast!!!, 8 September 2008

This piece of sub-barnyard cinema is a real treasure of z film-making and while I don't think anybody is going to mistake it for a Bergman film it is hopelessly and hilariously entertaining in an Eegah sort of way, but with more blood and gore. Think a really terrible version of 'Blood on Satan's Claw'. I know that's hard to imagine.

The plot involves two lovers who go to a strange town in Transylvania and meet up with a creepy hotel owner (played by Jess Franco?) and a relative of the Helzig clan who is a heavy alcoholic when he's not hunting vampires.

The witch make-up is actually quite disturbing as it just looks like someone with fourth degree burns all over there face. Lots of WTF moments including a cockfighting match and a delirious scene involving the witch being driven around in the back of a car that invokes Evil Dead 2 meets Weekend at Bernie's.

Pretty hilarious and some of the torture is weirdly disturbing.

I have no idea how this film would look restored. The print I saw was trash!

41 out of 57 people found the following review useful:
Best Film of 2008, 30 August 2008

'Encounters at the End of the World' is an engrossing, fascinating exploration of what it takes to exist in one of the world's most unforgiving landscapes.

Almost a companion piece to Herzog's earlier poem-like Fata Morgana, the film brings us into a world hidden to almost all but a very chosen few.

There are incredible exchanges between Herzog and his human subjects, who are all researchers studying various aspects of the Antarctic eco-sphere. One such exchange with a cell biologist involves the idea that humans evolved from the ocean to escape what the scientist terms the 'absolute horror' of existence among the extremely vicious, often microscopic 'monsters' that savagely fight for their existence in the frozen waters. Some of these creatures are shown in remarkable underwater photography and it's not hard to see what he means.

Another interview that I found both terrifying and fascinating was one with a journeyman plumber (who also is allegedly related to the Ancient Aztec royalty) about the effects of global warming. I didn't like 'An Inconvenient Truth' and have always been somewhat on the fence about global warming. But the way this man describes global warming set the hairs on my arms on end. The subject is returned to later in the film with several scientists advocating an even bleaker outlook on the topic. Their consensus is that we have already tipped the point of no return and that our existence as humans is already marked for extinction.

As one glacierologist, pointing at a radar screen showing formations of large glaciers puts it: "I don't want to know what happens when that melts." By the way, did you know that seal calls are like the sound of Moog synths and earlier Pink Floyd? I haven't even scratched the surface of this film. There are so many breathtaking moments of sheer rugged beauty that it will bring tears to your eyes.

Do not see this movie on video or DVD. Unlike 'Grizzly Man' which was more of a television format film, "Encounters At the End of The World" is deeply, deeply cinematic.

How many Bat-films do you need to see anyway? Do your brain a favor and lose yourself in 'Encounters at the End of The World'.

Best film of '08 hands down.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A brilliant overview and introduction to Weill's music for new listeners and old fans alike, 8 May 2007

I actually owned this on video for three years before watching it. Somehow, I just didn't get around to it. What was I thinking? I read some reviews of it, most were either mediocre or sneering and I thought the work would be a lame shot on video CBC doc with some talking heads explaining (duh) why they think Kurt Weill is a musical genius.

Then I watched this film and WOW! First of all, it's not a documentary! It's a concert film with amazing renditions of Weill's music by luminaries such as Nick Cave, William S. Burroughs(!), Lou Reed, Mary Margaret O'Hara, David Johansson, Elvis Costello and P.J. Harvey, amongst others doing incredible interpretations of Weill's work.

The film is interestingly staged in an old warehouse that evokes both the early industrial period in which Weill worked as well as the alienation technique of Brecht's theatre.

I can't describe how wonderful this work is. If you are a Brecht purist you may find this a little too awesome, but if you have an open mind and enjoy challenging and inventive music, you must see this.

What struck me so powerfully was that Weill's music never fit into what anybody would mistake as a 'musical' or 'opera' or 'pop', but amalgamated them all in an attempt to bridge art with the politics that surrounded him at the time. Weill's music was the soundtrack to the rise of Nazism in Europe and his haunting scores are even more disturbing in retrospect.


Shoah (1985)
73 out of 81 people found the following review useful:
May We Never Forget..., 30 April 2007

I finally saw Shoah yesterday at the Ontario Cinematheque. I sat through the entire 9 and a half hours in one sitting.

Shoah surprised me in several ways. The first was how the interviews were conducted. Lanzmann is a very direct and aggressive interviewer and initially, I was very put off by how he delved into his subjects. He seemed almost wreckless and completely devoid of empathy as he continued to ask the most personal and private questions, never hesitating to force his subjects to think back to what was not only the darkest moment of their lives, but the darkest moments of modern Western history.

Eventually, what happens however, is astonishing. Most interviewees eventually give up their resistance, and very carefully relate their stories. Lanzmann forces them to consider details. How many bodies per furnace? How wide was the ditch? How far was the train ramp from the camp's bunkers? These details facilitate memory and soon, the subjects open up in the most remarkable way.

No matter how you feel, or what you think you know about the Holocaust, this film puts faces to the tragedy in a way few conventional documentaries could. The emphasis here is on memory and oral history.

As one Holocaust victim says early in the film, "It might be good for you to talk about these things. But for me, no." Eventually however, he realizes he must bear witness.

There's one remarkable scene where Lanzmann confronts German settlers in Poland about the previous owner of their home, who were Jewish and sent to Auschwitz after their properties were confiscated.

People who don't find this film 'entertaining' or perhaps 'boring' probably feel that way because, outside of the immediate experiences of the subjects being interviewed, there is no wider context to present the events. A worthwhile companion to this film would be the BBC's Auschwitz: Inside The Nazi State which runs 4 and a half hours, but will help you understand Shoah better.

The other thing I found fascinating about this film was how the translations actually helped you absorb what is being said in a way direct subtitling wouldn't. For instance, most of the subjects speak German or Polish. Lanzmann speaks French mainly and some German. His translator translates what's being said into French and then the subtitles translate the French into English. By being able to look into the eyes of the people speaking, in their own native language, and then read the subtitles, was a very subtle, but very effective tool that deadens the 'shock value' of what is being spoken and gives the viewer more time to absorb the content.

Some people have complained also that the film also has many long takes, which are seemingly of nothing. For instance, Lanzmann lets his camera linger on the remnants of Chelmno, which was razed after the war. Although it just looks like a five minute shot of a field, what struck me was how different this bucolic field must have been in 1942. Making this connection justifies every frame shot. Lanzmann, however, will not force this down your throat. You must be patient.

This is an astonishing film that must be seen by everyone, at least once. Please review the general historical context of the Holocaust before you see it, to get the most out of it, but otherwise, this is living testament of the most vital kind.

Brilliant, essential film-making.

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