Chalk (2008) Film Review

Chalk is the latest release by Morgan Spurlock, so one is immediately pre-disposed to having opinions about it due to the fact that Supersize Me was so controversial. Although entertaining, Chalk is flawed in a most significant way: it comes off as a documentary when, in fact, it is not one. Its tagline, “Real teaching leaves a mark,” is extremely misleading. At the time, I figured the film was a documentary. But I couldn’t help but wonder how some of the scenes were caught on camera, as having a camera in a classroom would certainly cause students and teachers to act differently. It wasn’t until I came home and double-checked that it began to make sense — the names of

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3:10 to Yuma (2008) Film Review

“3:10 to Yuma,” a remake of the 1957 film of the same name, is the first of a few western themed movies to hit screens this fall. Its premise is simple: Christian Bale, playing downtrodden war veteran turned rancher Dan Evans, volunteers to help escort the devious outlaw Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe. The group’s task is to get Crowe to the train departing for Yuma prison, where he is to be tried and punished for his crimes of robbery and murder. The train station isn’t far, but Crowe’s loyal thugs are determined to save their leader at any cost. The film is a western geek’s dream, a whirling dervish of shoot-outs and stare-downs, filmed in the mustiest of

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Paprika (2007) Film Review

At first glance, Paprika is a stylish sci-fi detective thriller that uses dreams as a reason to explore the limits of animation. The visuals are exhilarating and titillating based on any level of criteria. But while many would be quick to write this film off as another “beautiful but brainless” offering from Japan, underneath all the sheen lies a fascinating and incredibly honest exploration of the joys and troubles of filmmaking. Paprika is an incredibly joyous film, multi-faceted and brimming with ideas, and it might be the best animated feature of the year. Satoshi Kon has always been one of the brightest stars in anime, leaving his mark with works such as the almost flawless Perfect Blue and the heartwarming

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Eagle vs. Shark (2007) Film Review

New Zealand 2007, 93 minutes It’s impossible to talk about Eagle vs Shark, a low budget comedy about weirdos in love, without talking about Napoleon Dynamite, a low budget comedy about weirdos coming of age. Taika Waititi’s latest movie borrows so much from the 2004 hit comedy that it never truly escapes its shadow, however hard it may struggle. Both films employ a fair amount of kitsch, relying on nostalgia and absurdist deadpan to milk laughs from the audience. Both films require the leads to be oblivious to their own social dysfunctions, allowing audiences to laugh freely at the characters, not with them. The humor isn’t mean-spirited; rather it’s more like going to the zoo. The film begins with the

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Rocket Science (2007) Film Review

USA 2007, 98 minutes, 35mm Hal Hefner, our teenage hero in Rocket Science, is the stuttering kid. He stammers through simple sentences. He looks at his feet while he talks to people. He sits in the back of class, fearful that his voice might accidentally escape and run away. And for the last odd-decade or so, that’s all he’s been. Other than being a quiet underachiever with a speech impediment, he’s a blank slate. It’s through the intervention of an overachieving, fast-talking, and, most importantly, female classmate that Hal attempts to break out of his shell. Ginny Ryerson, an all-star on the debate team and stone-cold ice-queen, bewitches the spineless Hal into joining the debate team to avenge her embarrassing

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The Bet Collector / Kubrador (2006) Film Review

Phillippines, 2006, 35mm, Tagalog (with subtitles) Jeffrey Jeturian’s film revolves around luck. Amy, a middle-aged woman who endlessly roams the winding streets of her Manila neighborhood relies entirely on it. Searching for people to place bets on jueteng, a popular gambling game in the Philippines, her livelihood is based on chance. From random street encounters, to evading the police (the game is officially outlawed), all the way down to the very luck of the draw in a round of jueteng, the Bet Collector creates a dizzying clash of chaos and coincidence. Nothing is planned in Amy’s traversal of the city streets. She walks around, seemingly bumping into friends or acquaintances at random trying to solicit bets from them. The camera

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Ghosts Of Cité Soleil (2006) Film Review

Denmark/USA 2006, 88 minutes, 35mm English, Crole, French (w/ English subtitles) Most of us have heard about the political turmoil in Haiti, but news reports are always very disconnected from reality. They are incapable of ushering forth a realistic view of the people they talk about, for there just isn’t enough time to get to know everyone personally. Haiti’s chimére, loosely is translated as “ghosts,” were put into rule during the presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who utilized them as a secret army to crush opposing parties and demonstrators. A documentary that at times seems to real to be a real documentary, Ghosts Of Cité Soleil is a remarkable look into the daily lives of two chimére leaders who were brothers

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The Banquet (2006) Film Review

Hong Kong/China, 2006, 131 minutes, 35mm Mandarin Chinese (with English subtitles) Why do the Chinese like to title their movies The Banquet so often? A quick search on IMDB pulled up three entries… out of four total. I know Chinese people love eating and all (I can legitimately say that since I’m Chinese), but still… no one else has had so many films named after a dinner party. The Banquet is one of the latest Chinese martial arts epics to hit American screens, and it is bountiful in both its strengths and its weaknesses. Loosely based off Hamlet, The Banquet is primarily a story of betrayal and unrequited love. To start off, the film looked beautiful during the scenes within

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The Bothersome Man (2006) Film Review

Norway, 2006, 90 minutes, DigiBeta Norweigan (with English subtitles) The reason the synopsis for The Bothersome Man sounds ambiguous is because the film is. A Norweigan surrealist flick directed by Jens Lien and written by Per Schreiner, The Bothersome Man has won 8 awards at film festivals around the world, as well as been nominated for two others. I can legitimately say I think it deserves it, as it was one of the best films I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival this year. The movie starts off with the main character, Andreas, in a desolate area in the middle of nowhere. He is picked up by a car and transported to a city, where he is immediately and

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The Pervert’s Guide To Cinema (2006) Film Review

United Kingdom/Austria/Netherlands, 2006, 150 minutes, HDcam English Slavoj Zizek is one of the few philosophers I can think of who can so easily slide between schizophrenia and didacticism, two characteristic which basically sum up his new film, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Unlike his last documentary, simply entitled ‘Zizek!,’ it becomes painfully obvious that he had full editorial control over this one. It skips around so furiously and incoherently that the viewer is left completely baffled. Surely incoherence can be a refreshing quality in the often sterile world of academia, but in this case, Zizek’s indulgence in complete freedom of thought works against the viewer’s reception of the film not to mention any overall point whatsoever. Though I don’t think

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Black Sheep (2006) Film Review

New Zealand, 2006, 87 minutes, 35mm English There is a new wave of horror spreading across the land, terrorizing and delighting film patrons everywhere. Catering to gorehounds and fans of cult-cinema, these gory-yet-witty movies have begun a movement in mainstream cinema towards a less slasher-centric idea of blockbuster screamfests. Movies like Shawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and The Descenthave found loads of critical praise and ample mainstream success for their efforts. Enter former music video director Jonathan King, whose feature debut, Black Sheep, could be the best yet to come from this new movement. The film gives the standard zombie movie a uniquely down-under twist, replacing the hordes of walking dead with herds of violent, man-eating sheep. King

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Manufactured Landscapes (2006) Documentary Film Review

Canada, 2006, 90 minutes, 35mm English Manufactured Landscapes is an unusual treat for anyone who is interested in the world at large, and in man’s involvement with the world. Although clearly a film that makes you contemplate your connection with the environment, the film is not outwardly politically-motivated or explicit about its stances on environmental issues. Featuring the large format photography of Edward Burtynsky and sweeping overhead camera work, Manufactured Landscapes takes the viewer through a visual journey through the world of strip mines, recycled computer mountains, dilapidated housing, and much more. In a Q&A session with director Jennifer Baichwal, she mentioned that the ambiguity of Burtynsky’s work made it something that both the management of environmentally-destructive offices and the

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