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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pop ed

Chuck Klosterman’s latest tome tackles the little and the big with a dash of necrophilia

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Chuck Klosterman IV is a guy who could give you the best-ever stranger-at-the-bar conversation. He knows pop culture as well as Rosie Perez knows fruits that begin with the letter Q. Klosterman's latest book, A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, combines a mastery of '80's arcania with a...

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Hourglass horror

DFT kicks off Teshigahara retrospective

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Amateur entomologist and schoolteacher Niki (Eiji Okada) escapes Tokyo for an extended weekend in the desert, in search of the beetle that will forever enshrine his name in a scientific insect journal. When he misses the last bus back, locals from a nearby dune village offer him a place to stay for the night. They lower him by rope ladder into the sandpit home of an attractive widow (Kyoko Kishida) where he gets a hearty meal and a good night’s sleep. Come morning, however, Niki wakes to find the ladder gone. He soon discovers he’s trapped in a plot that falls somewhere between Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and Stephen King’s Misery. Your patience will be rewarded with beautiful visuals. Filmed in high-contrast black-and-white, pools of shadowed blacks and long static shots of the landscape shift and change into abstract patterns. Teshigahara’s images are as sensuous as they are ominous.

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Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

German-born Turk Fatih Akin, director of the critically acclaimed thriller Head-On, introduces us to the Istanbul music scene in this well-crafted documentary. Situated between Europe and Asia, Turkey is a breeding ground for all sorts of funky, cross-cultural mash-ups and creative collaborations. The classic-meets-modernist music scene reflects a city where cell phone-toting teens in designer clothing dodge the dust billowing from ornate rugs beaten by old women in traditional Muslim garb.

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Confetti

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

English director Debbie Isitt’s mocks modern marriage and reality television by channeling Christopher Guest (star of This is Spinal Tap, director of Best in Show) with this improvised mockumentary. She sets the stage for a triple wedding, giving us three sets of fiancés competing in a magazine contest to see who can throw the most unusual wedding. The contest has only drawn freaks as contenders, and the results are hilarious. Martin Freeman (of the BBC’s The Office) and Jessica Stevenson, want to put on an elaborate, 1930s, Busby Berkeley-style musical affair. Stephen Mangan and Meredith MacNeill are a pair of tennis freaks, and their shared overcompetitiveness mean things will get ugly quickly. And finally, Robert Webb and Olivia Colman play naturists who insist on being totally naked while expressing their undying love for each other in front a roomful of near strangers. The cast represents the young face of British comedy. The nuptials are cheeky, campy and goofy, and, unlike your cousin’s Renaissance-themed reception, you’re free to laugh out loud.

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Feast

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

When Matt Damon and Ben Affleck started up Project Greenlight in 2000, they hoped to both open doors to up-and-coming filmmakers and create some entertaining “reality” TV. Feast, the third and final Greenlight movie isn’t all that bad, at least by swiftly plummeting monster movie standards. A motley collection of people wind up in a remote location, and are picked off one by one by vicious creatures. It’s the basic premise used to great effect in such cult classics as Evil Dead and From Dusk Till Dawn, flicks known as much for their cheeky sense of humor as their copious amounts of gore. Feast is quick to copy this formula, embracing its status as a cheesy splatter flick.

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Haven

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Newcomer Frank E. Flowers joins the long list of filmmakers who have brazenly mimicked Quentin Tarantino’s interconnected story structure while displaying none of his energy, wit or style. A muddled multi-character crime drama set on the Cayman Islands, Haven is destined to beat a hasty retreat to late-night cable where, even there, it’s not worth your time.

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Fearless

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Though Fearless has been touted as Jet Li’s swan song, his devoted fans shouldn’t worry too much. It’s doubtful that Jet Li will never again throw a kick on screen — rather, this film is simply his farewell to a certain kind of action picture: the historical martial arts epic. It’s a genre that’s served him well over the years. He plays another Chinese folk hero, in a fictionalization of the real life of Huo Yuanjia (1867-1910), a legendary fighter who was the Joe Louis of his time, inspiring his nation through highly publicized bouts with foreign fighters. Born a sickly child, Yuanjia blossoms into a driven combatant. He becomes obsessed with winning, but his relentless tunnel vision distracts him from his duties to friends and family. Eventually it catches up with him; a feud with a rival master turns tragically deadly and sends our hero on a spiritual quest for meaning that leads him to a peaceful rural retreat complete with affection from a lovely blind girl (Betty Sun). There he learns the virtue of patience, through working the land, even taking time to enjoy the breeze as it rustles the treetops.

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All the King’s Men

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

If you add it all up, the cast and crew of the political drama remake All the King’s Men have enough Oscars, Emmys and Grammys to open a trophy shop. The ads trumpet this fact, in a series of glossy, slo-mo face shots accompanied by the words “Academy Award Winner Sean Penn,” “Academy Award Winner Anthony Hopkins” and so on, until you start wondering if they’re trying to sell a movie at all, or just tickets to a star-studded red carpet ceremony. In fact, there isn’t much of a movie here. All the King’s Men is one of those prestige projects that comes along every once in a while to remind you that you can start with great material and an A-list cast and still end up with a leaden turkey. It’s like a feast prepared with gourmet ingredients by a chef who got all the measurements wrong: Start with one cup Jude Law, add a five-pound sack of Penn, one teaspoon Kate Winslet and a barely-noticeable pinch of Mark Ruffalo. Roast the whole thing at a low temperature for two hours and then ladle on a gallon of James Horner’s booming, overbearing score until there’s no distinct flavor left at all.

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Jackass: Number Two

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Although critics love to toss around the warning “this film is not for the faint of heart,” in the case of Johnny Knoxville’s newest homage to painfully funny unbridled idiocy, it’s really true: you just might find yourself puking into your popcorn bucket. After a sporadically successful foray into mainstream Hollywood, the impishly charming Knoxville has returned to his lowbrow roots, reuniting with his crew of goldfish-barfing, poop-diving, lovably moronic frat boys to produce the second feature-length Jackass film. This is a movie that boldly treads where no one even wanted to go: it leaves no testicles unkicked, no shit uneaten, and no vomit spared — there’s more barfing in this movie than at a bulimia convention. These jackasses don’t just encourage hurling — they embrace it.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Brutal reality

Black humor and horrors as seen through the troops’ eyes

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Filmmaker Deborah Scranton gained access to a New Hampshire Army National Guard unit during a 2004 deployment to Iraq, and distributed mini DV cameras and helmet mounts to the soldiers. The result is a harrowing and intensely intimate view of combat that puts the viewer in the front seat of Humvees during frantic patrols of crowded streets loaded with the constant threat of improvised explosives. The film focuses on Specialist Mike Moriarty, a gung-ho, nuke-em-all, 34-year-old family man with major anger issues; Sergeant Steve Pink, an acerbic aspiring writer with a thick Boston accent; and Lebanese-American Zack Bazzi, whose ethnicity and ability to speak Arabic sets him apart from his colleagues but makes him indispensable to the platoon. Ultimately this is a difficult film to watch, but the horrors on display are images that mainstream American audiences desperately need to see.

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