Film Review

Shorties: Finnish Machos and Persian Cats

persian-catsFreetime Machos

If you're not offended by blond, Finnish, amateur rugby players who have a penchant for blowup dolls, homosexual allusions, the frequent use of "pussy," and a fear of being fired by their employer, Nokia, Mika Ronkainen's affable documentary might just be up your alley. This oddball look at the Oulos, the third lousiest rugby team from their area, clearly argues that men will be men no matter the latitude: "In Finland, you rather get stabbed in the back than complain of female trouble."

Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons): Queer Brothers in Arms

Mine-VagantiOpenly gay Turkish film director Ferzan Ozpetek, like Almodóvar, has never been nelly about scattering characters of his own persuasion throughout his oeuvre. In Steam (1997), a young married Italian inherits a steam bath in Turkey, and when he visits his bequest dressed in a towel, he unexpectedly falls for a young male native. In The Ignorant Fairies (2001), a widow discovers that her deceased spouse, who had been hit by two cars traveling in opposing directions, had a secret life composed of drag queens and gays of all varieties. Infiltrating this campy cabal out of a depressed curiosity, she, against her will, rediscovers happiness.

Black Dynamite Gives You Oooooooooo!

BD_GunBetween its attention to detail and subtle humor, Black Dynamite is one of the most original approaches to film making since Woody Allen's early comedies. It’s hard to say what’s more tragic, that moviegoers have been reduced to relying on the mediocre talents of Judd Apatow and Jason Friedberg to provide them with big screen laughs, or that the funniest film in years was released this past October and couldn’t build an audience until it came out on DVD. Labeling this film as a mere Blaxploitation spoof would be a gross simplification, as it boasts action sequences that could take on Bruce Lee and bad-ass dialogue that could rival anything to come out of Shaft’s mouth.

March Hares, Hatters and 3D Glasses: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

alice_in_wonderland_johnny_deppIt wasn't a matter of if, but when Johnny Depp would adopt the guise of the Mad Hatter. It was a role that had long lain in wait for him. Lewis Carroll's sublime text has been given the full Tim Burton treatment. The unreality made real provides a seamless and Gothic, visual deception. Computer animation has erased all the cracks and joints we used to notice in the days of older celluloid fantasy -- the strings, the painted backdrops, the clunky animation. Burton's audience is instantly transported into a world that they know can't possibly exist, but which their eyes are forced into passive acceptance of. Although this is a Disney Studios feature, Burton makes no concession to the house style. Here is a dark location, a perfectly realized nightmare in which anything can, and does, occur.

Shorties: Drugged-Out Doors, Disgruntled Soccer Players, & Parched Africans

pumzi_film1. Pumzi

It's 35 years after World War III, all water sources are radioactive, and the land is infertile. As for the robotic remnants of mankind, they live underground in a high-tech, totalitarian empire with a regime so invasive that when a computer detects you are dreaming, a recorded voice commands, "Take your dream suppressants!"

As for sources of water, one's urine and sweat are gathered and then recycled into drinkable liquids

How to Train Your Dragon: The Post-Avatar Blues

dragon-filmHow to Train Your Dragon concerns a youth and his best friend, a dragon. Sound familiar? Been there, done that with Eragon, Mulan, Pete's Dragon, and a dozen others. For a refresher course, check out the site Dragons of the Silver and Small Screen.

Of course, this 3D effort by the writers/directors of Lilo & Stitch, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, is often visually enticing, yet after viewing Avatar so recently, the Pow! Factor is at times missing.

A Crippled Lyricism

andy_ianSex & Drugs & Rock & Roll By the time of his death in 2000, illness had once more had a transfigurative affect on the life of Ian Dury. Cancer, and the public knowledge of his impending absence from the world, turned him into a national treasure, the much-beloved rogue who had a magical turn of phrase. Mat Whitecross is no stranger to touchy subjects -- he proved that with Road to Guantanamo -- but Dury, notoriously cantankerous and volatile, is presented here in a warts-and-all cavalcade of chaos. He remains strangely lovable when many of his actions are not. The pace of the movie is as jagged and frenetic as one of Dury's frequent rages, but once it settles into a semi-narrative, the spirit of the man emerges. It is a white-knuckle ride of pathos and monstrosity.

Women Without Men: A Step in the Right Direction

women-without-men-filmIn 1953, the democratically elected government of Iran was being overthrown thanks to a CIA-backed coup d'etat with the aid of an oil-greedy Great Britain. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was installed, and numerous lives were lost, not counting many freedoms. The aftermath? Turn on CNN.

Situated in that pivotal year, photographer Shirin Neshats startling feature debut, Women Without Men, is meant as a tribute to those Iranis who fought, those who were crushed, and those who died thanks to foreign imperialist interference.

Mother: M is for . . .

mother-filmMother There's a quote in the book For Mom with Love that goes, "A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie." That's the kind of parent the eponymous Mother (Lim Hye-ja) is in this engrossing, Korean Hitchcockian thriller that showcases the dangers of unbridled maternal affection.

Shutter Island: Warning! Rocky, Shallow, and Adrift. Vacation Elsewhere.

shutter-islandShutter Island

Martin Scorsese, wanting to be Stanley Kubrick, has failed big time. I know The Shining, and Shutter Island is no The Shining.

Elephantine in every aspect, this attempt at a psychological horror thriller exploits the Holocaust, the plight of those incarcerated for insanity in the '50s, and the victims of anti-Communist purges by splicing together moments of those inhumane historical atrocities into an empty-headed, grotesquely dissatisfying cinematic journey.