In 1969, celebrated French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville released this bleak World War II epic that follows a small group of men involved in the French Resistance. At the time, it received a tepid response in his home country and never reached these shores. Now, 37 years later, the carefully restored film has finally come stateside, and though it’s not quite the masterpiece many critics make it out to be, it is an impressive work. The Resistance's underground fighters are kindred spirits to the cynical hoods and thugs that populate Melville’s gangster dramas. They operate with the same passionless dedication and strict code of ethics: Planning attacks, eluding the authorities, setting up clandestine meetings.
The screen is split, and so is the verdict, on this banter-heavy encounter between two unnamed characters. Taking place during and after a wedding reception, our lady and gent, played by Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, occupy separate frames of the screen for most of the movie. When they come together, the other side of the split screen is mostly occupied by flashes of the past, or flashes of what they wish was happening now. Even with its inventive moments, the dual action eventually starts to drag. The viewer is holed up in the hotel with these two for most of the movie, yet the moments where they exchange any meaningful looks are few and far between, and there’s little direct interaction between the two main characters. The split-screen is a thoughtful and creative tool, but — like so many ill-fated lovers — what was once intriguing eventually winds up just plain annoying.
From its title, you might expect this to be a spoof that takes aim at the done-to-death genre of incessantly happy queer romantic comedies, the kind that indie studios seem to churn out monthly. But writer-director Todd Stephens has his bar set much lower than your average gay date flick. This film wants nothing less than to be a very raunchy homo version of Not Another Teen Movie, which was itself a not-very-funny spoof of the passable Porky’s rip-off American Pie. Adding abused gerbils, nipple clamps and lubed-up vegetables to a concept this watered-down doesn’t make it any funnier. But damn it if they aren’t determined to try anything for a lame laugh or two.
This follow-up to Tony Jaa’s breakout performance in the 2003 low-budget martial arts movie Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior will leave the amplified echo of bones crunching ringing in your ears long after its painfully disjointed plot has faded from your memory. Jaa’s form of combat is called Muay Thai, but you may need a few mai tais to cope with the relentless bombardment of violence. With its grainy texture, choppy scenes and intermittently dubbed dialogue sprinkled between subtitles — this film goes down fighting. And then, of course, there are the elephants.