Gromozeka (2011) Film Review

Gromozeka is, in the words of my cohort, “very Russian.” Gromozeka is, in the words of my other cohort, “odd.” This odd, very Russian film is not for everyone. It’s probably not even for 75% of film-going patrons. There’s a plotline — kind of — but it’s comprised of a series of mostly disconnected vignettes. Some vignettes are poignant (a grown man being cradled by a frustrated prostitute), some endearing (a father and son sharing identical mannerisms when eating), some depressing (a man cramming barbituates into a bottle of bourbon). Quite a few are brief and almost pointless (a man ramming the back of his head once onto an elevator door, for instance). But Gromozeka is, in my words, “a

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Bellflower (2011) Film Review

Directed by Evan Glodell United States Artists unavoidably inject themselves into their work. Their personality, their characteristics, their likes, their prejudices, their fetishes, all these things are skin deep in any sort of artistic endeavor. Displaying your work is an inherent form of self-exposure, unavoidable in its necessity. But it’s true artistic talent that knows how to mitigate their own narcissistic influence, and to offer a statement that stands apart from the person behind it. Bellflower, the debut film from Evan Glodell, is not one of those success stories. This indie Action Drama races through its 106 minute runtime without a hint of irony, and a lot of excess fire, whiskey, burnt rubber and orange lens filter. Glodell stars in

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SIFF 2011 : Checkpoint! (Part 2)

Here’s a smattering of reviews that are up way too late for you to take advantage of, but nonetheless you should know about (for better or for worse). All these films were screened at the most excellent so far 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. Vallanzasca – Angels of Evil (2010) Italy, Directed by Michele Placido Biopic of Italian mobster Renato Vallanzasca has plenty of flair, but is possibly a little too fast paced. Kim Rossi Stewart makes the slick-talking Regato easy to fall in love with. Unfortunately, it’s hard to care about anyone else. Renato is wry, everything else just kind of happens. Also, the music almost never fits. The suits they wear are very nice, though. Terri (2011) USA,

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Vampire (2011) Film Review

Directed by Shunji Iwai Canada 2011 The line on Shunji Iwai’s English-language debut, Vampire, is “Don’t worry. The film is really not about vampires,” which is true. There are no mythical shenanigans; no supernatural mystique artificially injected into this story about a serial killer and his travails. However, the title of the movie does not mean to mislead. Iwai’s Vampire is definitely fantastical, and like Lily Chou Chou and Swallowtail Butterfly before it, requires a persistent state of suspended disbelief to truly shine. And by toeing the line of surrealism so expertly, Iwai, like a filmmaking Dracula, puts the view under a spell, allowing him to fully control (and subvert) one’s expectations. The story follows Simon, an attractive young biology

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Black Venus / Vénus Noire (2010) Film Review

The film explores the worst capabilities of human beings and their yearnings to manipulate and take control of others; it addresses multi-tiered issues of race, class, and opportunity and does so with faithfulness to realism, even when realism is uncomfortably atrocious.

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Saigon Electric (2011) Film Review

When director Stephane Gauger prefaced Saigon Electric by requesting that the audience not take it too seriously, I had to wonder what kind of journey I was in for. Turns out, a fairly unpleasant one. This film foray into Vietnamese breakdancing and hip-hop culture serves as a reminder that: 1) Not every film in a well-reputed international film festival need be a good film; 2) Just because a film is from another country does not mean it does not fall victim to Hollywood pitfalls. Even while keeping in mind not to take Saigon Electric too seriously, its over-the-top embrace of all things ridiculously cheesy quickly becomes unforgiveable. Such cheesiness can be found in, but is not limited to, the following:

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Amnesty International Celebrates 50th Anniversary.

Amnesty International’s 50th Anniversary is tomorrow, May 28th, and this is just a quick post showing off their latest promotional video in celebration of that. They certainly went a bleak route, full of gunshots and burning torsos — but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The video, Standing Up For Freedom was produced by Eallin Motion Art & DreamLife Studio, a world-renowned international motion art production company based in the Czech Republic. Directed by Carlos Lascano, the video’s aesthetic and art value are rather accessible — but it is the tale that is of particular interest. The piece “takes viewers on a metaphorical journey showing mankind’s struggle for freedom over the last 50 years,” the overarching

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How To Die In Oregon (2011) Film Review

The opening scene of How To Die In Oregon appears to capture the birthday celebration for an elderly member of a family. But one quickly realizes that this isn’t the celebration of the continuation of life, but the celebration of a man’s life — as that man drinks a lethal potion made available to him by Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. Portland-based filmmaker Peter Richardson has gotten some acclaim for How To Die In Oregon, including the Grand Jury Prize for Documentaries at 2011′s Sundance Festival. It is well-deserved; How To Die In Oregon is an unflinching foray into a question that most people probably never want to think about: if life becomes to painful to live, do you end

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SIFF 2011: Checkpoint!

Here’s a peek into what’s coming up at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. You can buy all tickets at www.siff.net. Pinoy Sunday (2010) Taiwan, Directed by Wi Ding Ho It’s The Puffy Chair but in Taiwan. Which makes it better than The Puffy Chair. But not by much. Does mumblecore work in more tonal, conversational languages? If it does, it hasn’t happened yet. A hard movie to pay attention to if there are other distracting things in the room, like a beautiful potted plant or a happy dog. Nonetheless, Taiwan is pretty, and Pinoy Sunday makes me miss a bag of betel nut and a beef noodle soup. AMC Pacific Place 11 – May 24th 7:00 PM AMC Pacific

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Natural Selection (2010) Film Review

Natural Selection Directed by Robbie Pickering, Starring Rachel Harris, Matt O’Leary USA, 2011 Natural Selection took this year’s SXSW Film festival by storm, winning multiple awards in a crowded field including Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay and the Grand Jury Prize. With confidence bolstered by such a decisive win, the producers of this dark comedy are expanding the film’s campaigin to every film festival under the sun, including SIFF. But will this film prove to be the juggernaut that SXSW audiences believed it to be? Or will Seattle up-turn its nose to the hype? Groundlings alum Rachel Harris (The Hangover) stars as Linda, a devoted yet sex-starved wife who adopts her husband’s strong Christian values. After her husband suffers a

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Finisterrae (2010) Film Review

Finisterrae Directed and Written by Sergio Caballero Lecha, Cinematography by Eduard Grau Spain, 2010 What exactly is Finisterrae? Dadaist art project? Absurdist bildungsroman? Destructionist popcorn flick? Whatever its inevitable classification may be, it will arrive there surely by accident. Filmed as nothing more than a few beautifully captured scenes and strung together with the thinnest of plot threads, the film, directed by Spain’s Sergio Caballero Lecha, simply is what it is. The “story” behind this art flick is that two ghosts (you know they’re ghosts because of the eyeholes cut in their sheets), fed up with their afterlives, set out to find a way to return to the plane of the living. On the way they murder an indecisive hippie

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Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010) Film Review

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Directed by Tsui Hark and starring Andy Lau, Li BingBing, Carina Lau China, 2010 Loosely based on the adventures of historical figure Di Renjie, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is a fun and fantastical mystery/thriller directed by the undisputed master of Chinese pop cinema, Tsui Hark. From the definitive wuxia series Once Upon a Time in China to A Chinese Ghost Story, if it seeps of quality and is from China, Tsui Hark’s probably had his hand in it. Detective Dee stars Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau as the titular hero, a Chinese literary figure and a parallel to fellow eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes. In fact, The

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