Burden of Dreamsby Al Shiv | created - 11 Apr 2012 | updated - 6 months ago | Public
Movies we loved and loathed (or worse, that simply bored us).
N.B. Recent additions come at the end, so for regular updates, just click on the reverse order icon.
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1. Milyang (2007)
Not Rated | 142 min | Drama
A woman moves to the town where her dead husband was born. As she tries to fit in, another tragic event overturns her life.
A movie full of surprises and a moving portrait of contemporary Korean society.
Though 'Secret Sunshine' may not be as accomplished as 'Oasis' and 'Poetry', it already bears the mark of a talented, deeply humanistic author.
2. Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
G | 99 min | Documentary
Film-maker Werner Herzog travels to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, looking to capture the continent's beauty and investigate the characters living there.
Votes: 15,449 | Gross: $0.94M
A treasure island of a movie.
As Herzog warns us in the opening sequence, this is NOT another doc on 'penguins'. And yet, despite all the fantastically fcked up human beings we come across along the film, the most memorable moment remains the sequence with the disoriented penguin walking straight towards his death.
3. El día de la bestia (1995)
R | 99 min | Action, Comedy, Crime
A Catholic priest teams up with a Black Metal aficionado and an Italian connoisseur of the occult to avert the birth of the beast, and with it, the end of the world.
Votes: 14,624 | Gross: $0.02M
Not as 'fuerte' as it could have been, but some truly hilarious scenes, such as the one where the anti-Christ chasing priest get assaulted by a shotgun-totting granny while trying to pump out some 'maiden's blood'. This remains a minor work compared to the later masterpiece of Iglesia, 'Balada de trompeta triste'.
4. The Vanishing (1988)
Not Rated | 107 min | Mystery, Thriller
Rex and Saskia, a young couple in love, are on vacation. They stop at a busy service station and Saskia is abducted. After three years and no sign of Saskia, Rex begins receiving letters from the abductor.
Chilling. Maybe the most terrific ending I've ever seen in a movie. Hail to the scriptwriter.
5. Inside Job (2010)
PG-13 | 105 min | Documentary, Crime
Takes a closer look at what brought about the 2008 financial meltdown.
Votes: 62,893 | Gross: $4.31M
Activist cinema at its best. Didactic but vindicative, a truly disturbing exposé of the financial Hell we built for ourselves.
6. Wang jiao hei ye (2004)
110 min | Crime, Drama
Hong Kong nihilism. December 22, a street quarrel leads to the death of a gang leader's son. Next day, he seeks revenge on his brother, a rival boss. He calls on Liu, a fixer, to import a ... See full summary »
Nothing unforgettable but a bit above the average, for its down-the-gutter humanism.
7. Take Shelter (2011)
R | 120 min | Drama, Thriller
Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
Votes: 79,229 | Gross: $1.73M
This is the kind of movie that saves it all or fcks it all in its last minutes. And in this case, the challenge was masterly addressed, not so much for what comes at the end (of the movie/of the world) but how it does. If I wasn't convinced about the choice of the mute daughter throughout the film, the last sequence made me wrong -and how wrong!
8. White Material (2009)
Not Rated | 106 min | Drama, War
Amidst turmoil and racial conflict in a Francophone African state, a white French woman fights for her coffee crop, her family and ultimately for her life.
Votes: 5,563 | Gross: $0.30M
Claire Denis' masterpiece to date. A falsely realistic/and yet kind of film, a narrative tour de force and a trippy ballad in a land of broken dreams.
9. Hors Satan (2011)
Not Rated | 110 min | Drama
In a village on the French Opal Coast, a drifter engages in a perplexing relationship with a young woman who has suffered abuse.
Euh... I have always been an ardent supporter of Bruno Dumont, even when my friends and colleagues accused him of a debilitating treatment of 'the popular'. Dumont, like Claire Denis in a sense, is a false realist. Beneath the social surface of things, search for the fairy tale. But this was until the vengeful ghost of Tarkovski turned up and wrought havoc over the Dumont I used to revere. After the storm, all we seem to be left with is a cinema of gimmicks and falsely immanent spiritual BS. All that remains are these splendid shots of rural landscapes reflecting the otherwise opaque inner world of the protagonists.
10. House of Tolerance (2011)
Not Rated | 122 min | Drama
At an elegant Parisian bordello at the dawn of the 20th century, exists a cloistered world of pleasure, pain, hope, rivalries, and most of all, slavery.
Votes: 5,169 | Gross: $0.02M
Bonello's best film to date. Etheral, and yet social; moral but non-doctrinal; poetic and erotic; literary but also infused with pop culture references (from Italian Giallos to the killing jokes of Batman's Nemesis). Only one -serious- mistake: the contemporary epilogue and its implicit conclusion - 'brothels were not all that good but at least the girls were off the street and enjoyed better protection, if not more dignity'. Cut the crap, Bertrand, you can do better than that.
11. Giants and Toys (1958)
95 min | Comedy, Drama
In the middle of a fierce commercial competition between three caramel companies, an executive builds up a ditsy teenage girl as a mascot while simultaneously trying to uncover the rival companies' plans.
A brilliant satire of Japanese workaholism and of capitalism at large. As usual, Masumura shows more interest and empathy for his female characters than for their male counterparts. The rags-to-riches heroine may get a broken heart but she, at least, knows how to make the best of all this fuss, without losing sight of the vacuity of it all. Cool cat indeed.
12. The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka (1967)
99 min | Drama, History
The Wife of Seishû Hanaoka is set in feudal Japan. Its two central characters are based on the wife and mother of Japanese physician Seishû Hanaoka (1760-1835). Hanaoka developed a herbal ... See full summary »
Masumura's best film (with Red Angel?), free from the excesses of his better known works (Blind Beast, Seisaku's wife, Manji...). The most honest and thus disturbing exploration of the underbelly of heroism I have ever come across. The 'holier than thou' competition between the wife and mother of Dr. Hanaoka finds an echo in the quest for martyrdom of many contemporary 'terrorists'.
13. Les derniers jours du monde (2009)
130 min | Sci-Fi
Robinson, appropriately named as we will soon discover, is on vacation in Biarritz with his wife. What follows is the story behind the loss of his arm, a story that becomes increasingly ... See full summary »
What is (so) right with French cinema, these days? Forget 'The Artist' (and go back to Guy Maddin if you want to see how alive and kicking mute cinema can truly be), these last few years have seen the release of a plethora of excellent French films, devoid of the visually-impaired 'nombrilisme' that seemed to have become their lot. Of course, 'Les derniers jours du monde' is a chatty film: when the world falls apart, the French continue to chit, chat and cheat on their spouses. But 'Les derniers jours...' is also a confirmation of all the good that came from the new breed of French filmakers' venture into genre cinema (science fiction, here, but the same could be said for horror and thrillers). And then, Biarritz is indeed a nice place to watch the world breathe its last.
14. Sedotta e abbandonata (1964)
Not Rated | 115 min | Comedy, Drama
Agnese, a 15-year-old Sicilian girl is seduced and impregnated by Peppino, her sister Matilde's fiancé. Soon Vincenzo, Agnese's father, discovers everything. He wants to force Peppino to ... See full summary »
Very disappointing. Too long, too obvious, too laborious. Miles away from the same director's excellent 'Divorce Italian style'. The only truly funny dialogue of the film comes towards the end, when the (Roman?) cop points at Sicilia's map and concludes that the best thing the Italian government could do with this island would be to nuke it out, full point.
15. Neco z Alenky (1988)
Not Rated | 86 min | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy
A surrealistic revision of Alice in Wonderland.
The best adaptation of 'Alice' on screen ever. Super vintage, for its stop-motion animation, but incredibly inventive. Fantasmagoric and yet terribly organic. Fantasy has a texture and few films have approached it so closely.
16. Ai no mukidashi (2008)
Unrated | 237 min | Action, Comedy, Drama
A bizarre love triangle forms between a young Catholic upskirt photographer, a misandric girl and a manipulative cultist.
Shion Sono's opus magnum, the 4-hour plus 'Love Exposure' is the Great Russian Novel of Japanese perverts. Never did 'Hentai' look as cool as in the exhuberant martial voyeurism of this bunch of otakus. Tosatsu (voyeuristic photography, with a predilection, here, for teenagers' panties) as a martial, but also as a FINE art, incredibly healthier than the spiritual gibberish of the 'Zero Church'. And I like pervert ninjas who kidnap devout girls to rehabilitate them through true love with a zest of Sasori kickassism.
17. Go Go Tales (2007)
Unrated | 96 min | Comedy, Drama
A screwball comedy centered on a Manhattan go-go dancing club, where a financial struggle between the owner, his accountant and his silent partner brother threatens the business's future.
Ferrara remains Ferrara. For the best -his love of cinema and his conviction that the fabric of dreams should remain a family enterprise- and for the worst -the aspiration to another, 'greater' cinema. But then this weakness is also what ignites 'Go Go Tales' with a tension rarely seen in his previous films (except 'Body Snatchers', maybe) between fantasies of the mainstream and a visceral attachment to the underground.
18. Pina (2011)
PG | 103 min | Documentary
A tribute to the late German choreographer, Pina Bausch, as her dancers perform her most famous creations.
Votes: 12,887 | Gross: $3.52M
An interesting though not completely successful attempt to adjust dance and cinema to the same tempo. Sometimes it works and in these magical moments, Wenders seems to have captured the essence of Pina Bausch's orderly disorder. But on the whole, Wenders seems to be more concerned with (his) cinema than with (Pina's and her troupe's) dance. The rough cuts into each dance sequence are frustrating and sometimes truly annoying as far as the de-synchronized interviews extracts are concerned. As my better half concluded: 'You shouldn't ask dancers to speak. They don't know how to speak. That's why they dance'.
19. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
PG-13 | 132 min | Action, Adventure, Thriller
The IMF is shut down when it's implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization's name.
Votes: 399,010 | Gross: $209.40M
The world is a playground for the IMF (!?) and Brad Bird, better known for his animes, sometimes makes the best of this axiom. The Kremlin gets bombed, Ethan Hunt climbs over the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, before he and his team set off for Mumbai (yes, Anil Kapoor is here!). But about half way through the film, something happens and the excitement dies down.
20. Shame (2011)
NC-17 | 101 min | Drama
A man's carefully cultivated private life is disrupted when his sister arrives for an indefinite stay.
Votes: 164,132 | Gross: $4.00M
After an initial reaction of reject, I tend to revise my appreciation. I'm still uncomfortable with the whole treatment of the brother/sister relation and its lacrymal climax, but the memory of Brandon, prisoner of his ever-unsatisfied body, lingers on. A bit too manipulative for its aspiration to be a truly physical piece of cinema, though.
21. La comunidad (2000)
R | 110 min | Comedy, Crime, Horror
The accidental discovery of a big fortune hidden in the apartment of a deceased man will fill the heart of a real estate agent with greed and dreams of a luxurious life, but the neighbours think otherwise.
Iglesia grand cru. The unity of action, within a single apartment building, contains his natural inclination towards dispersion. Carmen Maura carries much of the movie on her shoulders. Then again, it's Iglesia, so expect some last minute fckup, but honestly who cares.
22. Macunaima (1969)
Not Rated | 95 min | Fantasy, Comedy
Our story begins with Macunaima's miraculous birth to an old woman in a tiny jungle settlement. Born full grown, he discovers his life's purpose which leads him and his family/followers on ... See full summary »
The picaresque novel meets cinema novo, meets feminism, meets racial politics, before it all ends up in the belly of the pretty cannibal fairy. Something like an early Jodorowsky, only more raw, more energetic, more musical.
23. Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)
Not Rated | 272 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance
Follows a jealous countess, a wealthy businessman, and a young orphaned boy across Portugal, France, Italy and Brazil where they connect with a variety of mysterious individuals.
Votes: 2,803 | Gross: $0.11M
Splendid, formally as well as narratively. The whole movie unfolds like a spiral staircase around Father Dinis, the Master of stories, one of the many characters of the film who lived several lives under several names, several masters, several garbs, but the only one who seems to have mastery over his own fate and that of all those revolving around him. The photography is simply breathtaking, giving life to wall or ceiling paintings while composing every shot in the manner of a Rembrandt. The camera literally floats around the characters, piercing through walls, hearts, souls.
24. Don't Look Now (1973)
R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.
An excellent paranormal thriller, with some brilliant sequences. If it looks a bit oldish today, it's got more to do with Donald Sutherland's moustache than Roeg's tight directing. And indeed Venice can be a scary place - 'too many shadows', as the sister of the psychic complains.
25. I Wish (2011)
PG | 128 min | Drama
Twelve-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents' divorce, hears a rumor that the new bullet trains will precipitate a wish-granting miracle when they pass each other at top speed.
Votes: 4,743 | Gross: $0.15M
The time when Kore-Eda showed a quasi-obsession for death (Maborosi, After Life...) seems like an eternity ago. The forces of life have taken over with the kids - kids who often seem more mature than their drifting parents.
26. Sleeping Beauty (2011)
Not Rated | 101 min | Drama, Romance, Thriller
A haunting portrait of Lucy, a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires.
Votes: 28,218 | Gross: $0.04M
Excruciating. Not so much for the agonizing 'sex' scenes as for the artificiality of all the rest.
27. Redline (2009)
Not Rated | 102 min | Animation, Action, Sci-Fi
A story about the most popular racing event in the galaxy, the Redline, and the various racers who compete in it.
As gripping on the second viewing as on the first one. And how could one not love a film which has the following immortal line: 'We can't let Funky Boy destroy Robot World'.
28. Kidô keisatsu patorebâ: The Movie 2 (1993)
Unrated | 113 min | Animation, Action, Drama
When a terrorist attack is blamed on the Air Force, Special Vehicle Unit 2 gets caught in the middle of a growing political conflict.
'Every war is a surreal experience', says one of the characters towards the end of the film, one of Oshii's best. A slow-paced meditation on the transformation of war in the post-cold war, and the anxieties of Japan in a new world order. A bit tough to follow when you don't have the 1st volume in mind, though.
29. Cheung foh (1999)
Not Rated | 84 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Triad boss Lung, who has just escaped being killed in an assassination, hires five killers for his protection. Their grown solidarity is under compulsion when Lung gives a special order.
The film seems slightly outdated today (I remembered the mythical mall scene as more spectacular) but it remains as pleasant and stylish as ever. Unlike Tarantino's, Johnnie To's characters don't spend their short lives talking - they act, if only to eat peanuts... This is pure fetishist cinema, but To's fascination for guns could also be taken as a quasi-documentary approach towards a profession and its tools of the trade.
30. Moon to (2007)
R | 106 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A special agent has for 8 years been deep undercover in Asia's lucrative organized crime trade as he plays protégé to one of the key players, Banker. Nick now has but he has started to feel loyalty to his new environment, and to the money.
Revolting. The worst film I ever saw on drugs, their producers, traffickers and users, deeply infused with cheap morality. 'Why do people take drugs?', asks the main character at the beginning, before answering to himself: 'Because they are empty inside'. Well, if you can go along an answer like that, this piece of trash is for you. I will never watch a Derek Yee film again.
31. The Horse Thief (1986)
Not Rated | 88 min | Drama
The story of Norbu, a horse thief, who is thrown out of his tribe in an effort to purge it of evil. Norbu repents after the birth of his son, but he is forced to steal again after the birth... See full summary »
What better way to explore a society than to look at it from its margins? Norbu the horse thief is a deviant par excellence and his repeated transgressions, which will destroy him and his family, speak volumes on the norms of Tibetan society. From a formal point of view, the film is a rare achievement: while it seems to endorse a documentary, quasi-ethnographic perspective, it rapidly leaps into abstraction, during long sequences of religious rituals using layer after layer and creating mind-boggling mental (spiritual?) landscapes.
32. Haywire (2011)
R | 93 min | Action, Thriller
A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.
Votes: 76,778 | Gross: $18.94M
On the positive side, 'Haywire' is a humble, self-assumed low-key exercise for Soderbergh, entirely devoted to its heroine. The fights are surprisingly old school, which gives them a realism lacking in too many post-Matrix films. On the downside, Soderbergh seems to have gone on vacation in the middle of the editing and the end is splendidly botched up. On all counts, David Holmes' soundtrack in itself makes the film worth a watch. (6.5/10)
33. Bronson (2008)
R | 92 min | Action, Biography, Crime
A young man who was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter-ego, Charles Bronson.
Votes: 103,033 | Gross: $0.10M
It's the second time I watch 'Bronson' in the last six months, with equal pleasure and astonishment. This is a truly great piece of cinema, where every experiment (with sound, archival footing, animation, theatre...) somehow feels right. It is also, whatever one might think of Charlie Bronson, a visceral tribute to mankind's 'fighting spirit' in its crudest form. (9/10)
34. The Man from Nowhere (2010)
R | 119 min | Action, Crime, Thriller
A quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past takes on a drug-and-organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend.
Votes: 51,410 | Gross: $0.01M
An almost flawless Korean thriller. As dark, raw, and gripping as it gets. Despite a slightly easy ending, the presence of the kids does not so much add a touch of innocence to this descent into hell than it adds horror to it all. Nihilistic cinema at its best. (8.5/10)
35. Biyeolhan geori (2006)
Not Rated | 141 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A small time thug collecting debts for the local triad is torn between his criminal aspirations and his devotion to family.
A landmark in Korean gangster flicks, 'A dirty carnival' keeps its promises till the end. While skillfully mixing outbursts of raw violence and melodrama, it introduces a brilliant mise en abîme around the film within the film, thus questioning the links between gangsters and their cinematic representations. (9/10)
36. Vénus noire (2010)
Not Rated | 159 min | Drama, History
The story of Saartjes Baartman, a Black domestic who, in 1808, left Southern Africa, then ruled by Dutch settlers, for Europe, following her boss Hendrick Caesar , hoping to find fame and ... See full summary »
A real shock, especially since I did not expect much from Kachiche after 'La graine et le mulet', which I had found poorly directed and too nice for its own good. But this is an entirely different story - in all the senses of the term - and 'Vénus noire' is a great piece of radical cinema, as well as a disturbing portrait of a woman dominated but never subjugated, facing plural and volatile publics, all of which did not complacently compromise themselves in this racist freak show. True, the British liberals standing for the Venus' dignity in Court may have had other concerns in mind (abolitionist politics, in particular), but their dissent is a reminder that there never was a consensus around 'the colonial' in European societies. (9/10)
37. Repo Man (1984)
R | 92 min | Comedy, Crime, Sci-Fi
Young punk Otto becomes a repo man after helping to steal a car, and stumbles into a world of wackiness as a result.
Votes: 28,784 | Gross: $3.57M
"Repo Man" has aged - badly. Save for some truly magical moments, at the very beginning and the very end, the rest looks terribly outdated. From the haircuts to the crucifix earing of Emilio Estevez, it all looks like a testimony on a (hopefully) gone era. It's hard to believe that Alex Cox would grow up to direct 'Walker', a true masterpiece that, for its part, has not taken a wrinkle. (4/10).
38. Red Riding: The Year of Our Lord 1974 (2009 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 102 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
A rookie Yorkshire journalist sets out to solve the case of a child murderer.
Formally, the most enticing opus of the trilogy, though the characters are not as developed as in the third installation, the best of all three films. (7/10)
39. Red Riding: The Year of Our Lord 1980 (2009 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 93 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
A team of investigators attempt to stop a serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper from claiming his next victim, but uncover something far more terrifying.
Votes: 7,366 | Gross: $0.15M
The second installation is the weakest of all three films, and the most caricatural in terms of character design. Gray areas seem to have vanished here, a manicheism that would be corrected in the conclusive chapter (6/10).
40. Red Riding: The Year of Our Lord 1983 (2009 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 100 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Plagued by guilt, a corrupt police official attempts to solve the case of a missing schoolgirl after seeing connections between her disappearance and a rash of prior abductions.
Whether in terms of narration, character design or cinematography, a complete success. Finally, the gray triumphs over black and white, with Morris the not-so-bad-after-all copper and the greasy soul man of a lawyer. A ray of hope pierces through all this darkness, and the epilogue is a splendor of survivor poetry. This is the North, and after all you can't do all you want (9/10).
41. The Innocents (1961)
Not Rated | 100 min | Horror
A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
Adapted by Truman Capote from a novel by Henry James, 'The Innocents' is a deceptive 'horror' classic. The horror, here, lies less in the ghosts than in the disturbed mind of the governess, projecting her repressed sexual fantasies on the children. A truly disturbing and beautiful film (10/10).
42. Elite Squad (2007)
R | 115 min | Action, Crime, Drama
1997, Captain Nascimento has to find a substitute for his occupation while trying to take down drug dealers and criminals before the Pope comes to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Votes: 89,130 | Gross: $0.01M
With its quasi-documentary approach towards the infernal triangle between narcos, policemen and politicians, Tropa de Elite could be another piece of social cinema. But it is also an excellent action flick with breathtaking gunfights. (8/10)
43. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)
Not Rated | 115 min | Action, Crime, Drama
After a prison riot, former-Captain Nascimento, now a high ranking security officer in Rio de Janeiro, is swept into a bloody political dispute that involves government officials and paramilitary groups.
Votes: 72,516 | Gross: $0.10M
The rot deepens, and the plot thickens as a result. The best of the two opus, the darkest too. (9/10)
44. The Bed Sitting Room (1969)
R | 90 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi
Set in post-nuclear-holocaust England, where a handful of bizarre characters struggle on with their lives in the ruins, amongst endless heaps of ash, piles of broken crockery and brick, ... See full summary »
An exercice de style in British surrealism, on the verge of boredom at times but generally quite poetic. (8/10)
45. The Warriors (1979)
R | 92 min | Action, Crime, Thriller
In the near future, a charismatic leader summons the street gangs of New York City in a bid to take it over. When he is killed, The Warriors are falsely blamed and now must fight their way home while every other gang is hunting them down.
Votes: 80,439 | Gross: $22.49M
The film has aged but it retains its innocence - the sign of pre-crack / pre-Uzi times. And the soundtrack is magnificent (7/10).
46. Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007)
R | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Biography
The story recounts the early life of Genghis Khan who was a slave before going on to conquer half the world in 1206.
Votes: 40,704 | Gross: $5.70M
Beautifully shot but terribly vain. Looking at the making of one of the world's greatest conquerors through the perspective of romance seems a bit lame, and Asano Tadanobu is both too old and too gentle for the role. Finally, the politics of Gengis Khan's 'national' unification are completely absent and the last part of the film is so elliptic it hurts... (4/10)
47. Onna ga kaidan wo agaru toki (1960)
Not Rated | 111 min | Drama
A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends.
Magnificent. A moving, nuanced portrait of a woman on the edge, seeing her youth fly away while facing an uncertain future, coping with disappointment after disappointment. If only for the scenes where Mama climbs the stairs of the hostess bar where she works - and which symbolize her active contribution to her own alienation - this film is a masterpiece. (10/10).
48. Akai hashi no shita no nurui mizu (2001)
119 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy