Wednesday, October 29, 2008

K i l t r o

Chile 2006

Award-winning Chilean stuntman Marko Zaror stars as Zamir, a street fighter in love with the lovely daughter of a tae kwon do master. When her father is threatened, Zamir must learn to control his fighting skills in order to protect them all. Written and directed by Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, this energetic kung fu tale of honor and revenge also features Caterina Jadresic and Miguel Angel De Luca.

A breath of fresh air. This is a film I highly recommend. Very off beat and quirky with a intentionally over dramatic serious undertone. Great direction, great fight scenes nice character development. What really surprised me was the ultra violence. CGI gore fest that's entertaining enough not to ruin the film. Runtime is right on.

Last Great Wilderness

United Kingdom 2003

An unlikely pair, cuckolded Charlie (Alistair McKenzie) and playboy Vincente (Jonny Phillips), agree to share a ride to a Scottish town called Skye. But on the way there, their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in the woods, where they encounter a mysterious hodgepodge of strangers at a rustic resort. Things turn from bad to worse when they join this motley crew, and before long, their adventure turns into survival of the fittest.

This is the type of movie that builds perfectly. Shot on digital video the storyline starts basic and transcends into a multi-character collage that is very simple but intriguing enough to be natural and acceptable if applied to reality. The acting is superb. The Scottish accents are thick, with no subtitles, so concentrate! This is a very powerful movie. It touched me. The climax is brutal.

Phase IV

USA 1974

When a spate of peculiar activities begins to occur in the Arizona desert, scientists Ernest Hubbs (Nigel Davenport) and James Lesko (Michael Murphy) investigate and discover a colony of highly intelligent ants bent on expanding their terrain -- and on conquering humanity. Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Saul Bass, this thought-provoking sci-fi-thriller also stars Lynne Frederick, Alan Gifford and Helen Horton.

Some may say I am exaggerating when I claim this is one of the best movies ever made, regardless my claim does not falter. This is a work of pure genius and a true visionary gem especially for the time it made. Divided into phases, the movie starts with a straight forward yet vague explanation of an astrological alignment that triggers an advancement in intellect of different species of ants. At that,two scientists on the scene seem to devolve as a result and the ants turn the tables doing some experimenting of their own. This is a very intricate sci-fi/drama with a lot of detail and profound monolith ant colonies emphasizing the evolution of their intelligence and superiority to the humyn race. A must see.

King Corn

USA 2007

In Aaron Woolf's thought-provoking documentary, friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America's Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation's most-grown and most-subsidized grain in an attempt to follow their crop into the U.S. food supply. What they discover about genetically modified seeds, powerful herbicides and the realities of modern farming calls into question government subsidies, our fast-food lifestyle and the quality of our food.

This docu starts off seemingly frivolous and light hearted with a little too much effort emphasizing both. Then you realize that it's a set up for all the sad and serious affects of how the industrialization of agriculture is impacting our blind society. Very well put together and informative film. An easy watch, I highly recommend it.

Saat Po Long

2005 Hong Kong

Diagnosed with a brain tumor, a police detective decides that after years of failure, he'll do anything it takes to put a notorious crime boss behind bars, even if it means breaking the law. Joined in his mission by Officer Ma Kwan (Donnie Yen), veteran cop Chan (Simon Yam) sets out to snare the gangster Po (Sammo Hung), leaving a trail of badly beaten henchmen along the way. Martial arts ace Yen also choreographed the explosive fight scenes.

Woah. This is where Donnie Yen should keep going. Major build up, really intense fight scenes as well as brutal. Plot is alright. Nothing exceptional. The way it's delivered and the development of the characters builds tension and sweat in the palms. Check this out! Sammo Hung is incredible. Also check out "Flash Point". Also with Donnie Yen. Save "Fatal Move" for last, it's stupid and almost exactly like SPL, but not very good.

Save the Green Planet!

South Korea 2003

Believing that aliens in human form are systematically destroying the planet and all humankind, Byung-gu sets out to capture an alien leader and force him to confess. Because all the aliens look like humans, Byung-gu makes an educated guess and kidnaps the head of a chemical company. Byung-gu desperately tries to wring the truth from the man before the police close in and aliens destroy the world. Ha-kyun Shin and Yun-shik Baek star.

Took me by surprise as many reviewers suggest this is for sure, not a frivolous journey into a crazy Korean man's mind. It's a straight up dramedy, thriller, horror, sci-fi romp. Intense, inventive and profound. The end kind of went a little too far, considering you felt it had ended or should have 4 times already. But I'm completely satisfied with it overall. One of my favorite Korean movies to date. Definitely worth a rent, a watch and a referral.


Finland 2008

While mapping the new border with Russia in 1595, Finnish soldier brothers Erik (Ville Virtanen) and Knut (Tommi Eronen) stumble upon a spooky, almost-childless undocumented town. There, they find a mysterious sauna that forces all who enter it to face their past sins. Finnish director Antti-Jussi Annila's masterfully atmospheric horror film screened at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.

Here is a tense atmospheric horror film without all the conventions of horror other than the mystery tactic of what the actual force of the evil presence may or may not be. A nice cast of rough characters of many depths making this thriller multi dimensional and sensationally interpretive art house cinema. The conclusion is abstract, genuinely creepy, imaginative and overall brilliantly done. A true maverick of what horror has been standardized to be. Do not pass this up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Left Bank

Belgium 2008

Shit, this film has the best slow burn build up I
have ever come across other than
Once Upon a Time in the West or Bielinsky's EL AURA.
The title refers to a trendy new suburb on the shores of Antwerp's River Schelde. Built up with new luxury high rise apartments and miles of running trails through lovely wooded parks, it seems an unlikely place to find evil flourishing. Yet the neighborhood has a dark past and a darker secret.

The film can be summed up with "Each beginning is a new end"
for which you would have to see this to understand.
I had absolutely no idea what was going on in this film until the last 8 minutes.
They eventually hint around to the occult using actual historical stock footage through out the film. But beautifully atmospheric and depressing backdrops that really put a damper on the main characters life. And it's totally someone you can relate to on many levels because it's very believable and spot on acting really takes you there.

Das Experiment

Germany 2001

An artificial prison has been built as part of a psychological experiment
(a la 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment) in which 20 male participants are asked to take roles as either prisoners or guards. As psychologists watch the results unfold, our focus is on a former journalist who was intrigued by the experiment and volunteered to be one of the prisoners, thinking there might be a big story in it for him. But he ends up getting a lot more than he bargained for...

This film builds tension robustly. Unsettlingly vague character development seers a suspenseful climax that scabs over with a fulfilling ending and an eccentric romance that never gets in the way of the films intense structuring but only feeds the nail biting into a gnawing. Great acting, intriguing storyline. Minor flaws but without them, the climax would not have been as big of a tidal wave impact. Flaws were actually gifts to lay out the tension thicker. Get it, see it. Love it.

A Tale of Two Sisters

South Korea 2003

Terrified sisters try to exorcise their home of two dark forces -- their evil stepmother and a vengeful entity -- in this ghostly tale. Hospitalized after their mother's death, young Su-mi (Im Su-jeong) and Su-yeon (Mun Geun-yeong) return home to find a nasty new stepmother (Yeom Jeong-ah). The girls suffer terrifying events, but their father doesn't care, even though evil lurks around every corner. Can the girls free their home from its demons?

This movie was good until the apparent twist came into the ever so obvious open. The camera work in this and the acting is at the top notch. But when the movie takes a turn to explain what is going on it fails miserably. Nothing spoils a film for me than an attempt at over accentuating a profound turn around. This film should have ended 5 times but lagged and dragged on way beyond the plot twist. On top of that the twist was stupid and nothing special. The camera work was so good though. I put this film off for a few years because it didn't look good to me. Then I saw The Good The Bad and the Weird and loved it, so I figured I would love this as well. Bad assumption on my part. No good.

The Vanguard

United Kingdom 2008

Set in the year 2015, this apocalyptic thriller finds rebels Max (Ray Bullock Jr.), Rachael (Emma Choy) and Zac (Steve Weston) caught in the midst of a raging war between the Biosyns -- a race of primitive people engineered by scientists -- and the all-powerful Corporation. With civilization on the verge of extinction, due to oil depletion, the trio sets out on a dangerous journey to locate and join a growing resistance movement.

Do not follow any negative reviews on this low budget indie feature shot on DV. The reviewers obviously had no idea what they were getting into before seeing this film and just thought the cover "looked cool". Expecting a super ceding zombie gory romp with one on-going plot of eating brains is definitely not what The Vanguard is trying to portray. In fact it's not "trying" it's very much succeeded in portraying the flaws of our species and our ignorance to the role nature plays in keeping our order in check. I really liked this film. It was modest, humble, low budgeted and surprisingly well acted. It's very serious. And it is a film that can be taken serious by a well rounded viewer. There are a decent amount of kills not over doing it and some very, very minor CGI effects. Bare minimum budget with a really misanthropic message that flips 180° to a substantial morale and prolific ending. A very subtle and fresh digital video feature that should not be over looked or passed aside due to a poor review by some one with little or no appreciation for good film making. B++

Tokyo Gore Police

Japan 2008

When a crazed scientist called Key Man develops a virus that causes humans to mutate, samurai sword-wielding cop Ruka is called in to annihilate the unnatural creatures. Can Ruka wipe out the mutations and stop Key Man before the virus takes over humanity? Little does Ruka know, though, that the slaying of her father years before means she shares a hidden bond with her nemesis. Yoshihiro Nishimura's fast-paced gorefest stars Eihi Shiina, Itsuji Itao and Shôko Nakahara.

A lot of people don't understand that The Machine Girl is a comedy. Paying homage to older action films of the 80's and even 90's who did not intentionally set out to make a funny movie. It's intentionally cheesy the effects are bad in a great way and are for the most part 85% practical and not CGI. T G P has taken that to a whole other level. There is some ridiculous gore in T G P. The director held a Q&A at the screening and had a translator help him communicating saying that they used 4 tons of blood... Wow, and upcoming films include THE DRILL BRA SISTERS. There is one part in the film where a guy gets his legs chopped off and then propels himself with his blood like a rocket... INCREDIBLE! There are several scenes where fellatio becomes fellaticapitation, ha and some pretty cool practical special effects that utilize some really cool death scenes never before seen. This film was over the top and sickening in an acceptable way. The plot was really cool too. There's a mad scientist who develops this key shaped tumor. The tumor turns normal people into ENGINEERS. Once an engineer is injured their wounds turn into deadly weapons. It's out of control. Crocodile female private part, nuff said.


Belgium/Luxembourg/France 2008

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in this comic action film. While visiting his family at home in Belgium, Van Damme is caught in the middle of a robbery, and the cops think the aging star has snapped and pulled the job himself. Now, on top of dealing with financial problems, a nasty custody battle and a waning career, he has to make like a real-life action hero and find his way out of a very tense situation.

Undoubtedly the best career choice Van Damme has ever made. This is a touching film that Van Damme himself portrays his 47 year old persona. He exploits himself to the fullest extent in this biopic film touching base with his Steven Seagal rivalry and falling out with John Woo. This is one funny film, especially if Van Damme played a major role in your childhood cinema upbringing. Which for me was one of my biggest influences and to this day still IS. Straight up, I CRIED two times in this film. I've never witnesses such a tour de force of self exploitation and genius execution of Jean Claude in all my years. If you get a chance to see this please tell me your thoughts. I would love just to discuss the genius of what this film is. At the films climax Van Damme delivers a monologue/confession without a script directly into the camera that is the most touching and human delivery I have ever seen brought to the screen. Do not miss this film or pass this up.


France/Canada 2008

Years after she escaped from an icy torture chamber in an abandoned slaughterhouse, Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) enlists the help of her closest friend, Anna (Morjana Alaoui), to track down the family who tormented her and exact her revenge. But when Lucie and Anna investigate further, they discover that they've only scratched the surface of an unspeakably vile secret organization. Pascal Laugier directs this ultraviolent horror film.

So for all of you who are into the film A L'Interieur (INSIDE) you will love this movie. This is one of the most offensive, brutal and emotional movies I have ever bared witness to and the premise has a profound subject matter to life and death and the stages in between. I cannot even get into detail of the stuff that happens in this film. It's just something you have to see. It will not get a release in theaters and I have no idea about whether it will even get released or who will distribute this screwed up work of art. A lot of people could pass it off as just a violent romp but all the ultra sadist violence and torture in this film is not only justified in a sense but done brilliantly graphic and on a level of utmost perfection. You have to see this.


Spain 2007

After accidentally traveling to the past, Héctor (Karra Elejalde) meets himself and triggers a series of mysterious events that lead to a shocking crime. The gripping time-travel story -- at once deeply intricate and easy to follow -- also stars Candela Fernández. Oscar-nominated short-film director Nacho Vigalondo makes his feature debut with this finely crafted sci-fi thriller.

Wow. So I was originally supposed to see this Spanish indie back in Sept. 2007 but decided not to due to airfare not being so fair. Fortunately for me it screened at this year's INT. CLEVELAND FILM FESTIVAL. I caught the midnight screening in he midst of that crazy storm via public transit park n ride. Which let me not tell you is a whole story of it's own. I'm not certain on the date release for this film or even if it's getting distribution in the USA. I do know Cronenberg is doing the remake for the states... You have to see this movie. It's bleeding brilliant. A man accidentally gets into a time machine and travels back in time nearly an hour. Finding himself will be the first of a series of disasters of unforeseeable consequences. I'm just going to this in here to give you an idea. If you liked "PRIMER" then you'll fall in love with this brilliant movie. I don't want to give anything away, so I'm merely recommending it. I figured the film out quite early and was really impressed with myself. But as the film went on it elaborated further more on what I had figured out and jus kept take it a step further and further. The end result will leave you satisfied.

Just Another Love Story

Denmark 2007

A husband and father, Jonas (Anders W. Berthelsen) lives a quietly predictable life in the suburbs. When he inadvertently causes a car accident that leaves a young woman, Julia (Rebecka Hemse), with amnesia, he finds himself telling incredible lies to make her and her family happy. By pretending to be Julia's boyfriend, Jonas opens up a brand-new life for himself, one full of exotic and endless possibilities.

Amazing work of cinema. A black comedy that could be compared to "While You Were Sleeping" but add the love interest in a coma add an affair and a slew of screwed up stuff that happens a la some crime noir. Amazing twist and some very intense moments.
Actually turns around and leaves the black comedy in the dust with just intense and emotional anguish. The editing and the grain of the film is intricately astonishing. Do not miss this film.

Let the Right One In

Sweden 2008

Twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), the constant target of bullies, spends his time plotting revenge and collecting news items about the grisly murders plaguing his town. Things change for Oskar when he meets new girl Eli (Lina Leandersson), a misfit vampire who steals his heart. As a serial killer continues to prey on teen boys in the small village outside Stockholm, Sweden, Eli helps Oskar find the courage to stand up to his tormenters.


As far as vampire films go and even stories regarding vampires this is by far the best of them. It will knock you on your buttocks. This is a poignant masterpiece of all that which is considered ground breaking and inventive heartfelt cinema. The film is based on a 12 year old boy who is frequently bullied by a trio of dick heads, that you WILL love to hate. Oskar has no friends. One day he meets a weird 12 year olf girl named, Eli. Over time they develop a fondness of each other and Eli reveals to Oskar that she's a vampire. Poop hits the fan in a subtle build of supernatural horror with a hint of romance and the coolest ending of a film I've seen in awhile.

Repo! The Genetic Opera

USA 2008

In the near future, a biotech company saves mankind with synthetic replacements for failed organs. But those who default on their new liver or heart are subject to repossession. Shilo (Alexa Vega) navigates this dystopia while searching for a cure for her rare illness. Her odyssey is set to a number of catchy songs in this tongue-in-cheek opera. Paris Hilton, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head and Sarah Brightman round out the deliciously diverse cast.

G'sus. After seeing this you'll understand what type of fan base this is going to create and has already created. How this is considered a masterpiece is beyond me. The songs are horrible, the music is by Alien Jurgenson and Paris Hilton is in it. I thought I was sweet because I saw the U.S. premiere of this "musical" but found myself falling in and out of sleep completely despising the characters, the content, and the singing. The only thing this film has going for it, is the gore. There is a ton of blood and gutting and suitable effects that do not make up for the pile of short comings. And the detail is pretty thorough and despite being a ton of CGI the setting is pretty detailed. Honestly just think, this is already declared a "cult classic" before the official release. People are calling it the Rocky Horror of the 21st century. It's a movie for the tubby goth trash public that know nothing about great film making. Nu metal kids will love this.The chick from Evanescence is in it with a strong role, not cool either. She's not really in it, but it might as well be her.
Just watch this so you can help me hate it!

Monday, October 27, 2008

FLOW: For Love of Water

USA 2008

From both local and global perspectives, this documentary examines the harsh realities behind the mounting water crisis. Learn how politics, pollution and human rights are intertwined in this important issue that affects every being on Earth. With water drying up around the world and the future of human lives at stake, the film urges a call to arms before more of our most precious natural resource evaporates.

A very moving and unsettling eye opener especially to Americans who live oblivious in the midst of the on going and perpetual water crisis. Water, a natural resource that has been manipulated and marketed as a profiting property in part of a booming corporate commodity. Because of water being the most essential of all things held as necessity, those same international companies have exploited that and detain the natural life bringing resource, causing life threatening scarcities world wide. THIS IS A MUST SEE.

Killing Words

Spain 2003

No one knows what's truly behind the genial facade of Ramon (Dario Grandinetti), a college instructor who's so meticulous, nothing in his world seems out of order. And yet, his basement is a dark place of chaos, one in which he's forced an unwitting guest named Laura (Goya Toledo) to stay and play a deadly game. The stakes are high: If she wins, she walks; if she loses, her life is on the line. Laura hopes she can hold her own.

Here's an interesting film from Spain. The plot was very realistically unique and the dialog was very impressive. A lot of cat and mousing accompanied with great acting and a pendulum of plot twists that were not over the top and hard to believe but actually intelligent and tactical. I can appreciate a film that offers up irony in vengeance. I respected and valued the anti-hero's ability to out smart everyone. With that being said. Check it out, you'll like it.

The Libertine

United Kingdom 1998-2004 (Huh?)

Johnny Depp portrays 17th century poet John Wilmot in this provocative period piece. Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, received posthumous acclaim for his sexually overt poetry, but his womanizing ways garnered the most attention during his brief life. His rakish adventures include attempting to kidnap the woman he would eventually marry, constantly angering the king and wooing actress Elizabeth Barry. Samantha Morton and John Malkovich co-star.

How people could even give this movie a negative review is beyond me. An absolutely brilliant film. The acting delivered from all the cast was simply astounding and gripping. Beautiful film work that should not be overlooked. Entertaining and the writing is undoubtedly genius. Amazing delivery on all levels. This is what film making is all about. A sincere independent historical biography on a mastermind cynic. The sexuality wasn't even that vivid in this film. A portion had a short lived plethora of phallic imagery but nothing that could be considered shocking or over the top. Please see this film.


France 2005

Deep in debt, small-time hoodlum Andre (Jamel Debbouze) decides to end his life on his own terms before his unsavory creditors come a-calling. But as he's poised to dive off a bridge, he meets the mysterious Angel-A (Rie Rasmussen), who seems just as desperate, and the event changes his entire outlook. The two discover that companionship can make even the most difficult life worthwhile in this inspiring film from French director Luc Besson.

This movie really got to me, in a good way. I wasn't expecting much out of it merely because of the synopsis and the religious content. But it really knocked me on my rear by catching me off guard with a lot of heartfelt scenarios that were just so deep. Jamel has the warmest eyes on a man ever and is a lovable teddy bear crook with a big heart. Rie is a towering beast that knows how to pave the road in the most in direct way. I cared about the characters a lot! I recommend this to anyone into off beat romances with a fantasy overtone.

The Devil's Chair

After his girlfriend, Sammy (Polly Brown), dies during a drug-addled night in a deserted asylum, Nick (Andrew Howard) winds up in a mental hospital and accused of her murder. But years later, a skeptical doctor (David Gant) returns to the scene with Nick and some students to prove his innocence. Now Nick must face the demons responsible for Sammy's horrific death in the sinister torture chair they discovered that night.

I have been waiting for this to become available on DVD for some time. I was completely let down. Let's just get all the cons out of the way before I point out a few pros this film does have. Bad acting, horrible storyline, bad dialog and the twist was the biggest insulting no-brainer. It truly aggravated me that such an obvious idea, that can be easily presumed from the get go is then made a reality, with out giving anything away by explaining. IS A COMPLETE COP OUT. The creature effects were in all honestly a bit sluggish. The actual chair and it's effects were awesome. Doesn't make up for this stupid film. I utterly hated it.

Son of Rambow

Forbidden to watch TV or go to the movies by his ultrareligious parents, young Will (Bill Milner) gets a hold of a camera, and his mind blossoms in this nostalgic comedy from the team behind The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Set in 1980s Britain, the film tells the tale of the friendship that blossoms between Will and class bully Lee (Will Poulter) when the latter recruits Will to help him make a home movie inspired by Rambo: First Blood.

Son of Rambow is a quarky heartfelt dramedy about discovering who you are and who your friends really are and understanding that despite what your family thinks, doing what you really want to do is essential in becoming the person you will not regret becoming. This is a very nostalgic film paying it's respects to the mid 80's with a religious contrast that reflects the oppression that entails with foced beliefs. Which in turn is shown through the Son of Rambow's Mother questioning her own ideals, whether they be right or wrong. A sincere and funny film.

Nuit Noire

Museum entomologist Oscar (Fabrice Rodriguez) meticulously catalogs dead insects, all the while trying to make sense of his traumatic childhood in this surreal exploration of transformation from critically acclaimed Belgian filmmaker Olivier Smolders. Rich with intriguing images, the story follows Oscar's work, his therapy and his relationship with a dying African woman who mysteriously appears in his bed and undergoes a surprising metamorphosis.


If this is not an interpretive half art house film half noir love story, then I do not know what is or want to know. You cannot really, not like this film. It delivers a unique blend of mystery and inspiring visuals that choke your eyes. Watch it before 9 pm with a group of people or you will have sleepers. The plot is as it describes, very interesting... but there's no pace, it can be convoluted at times which with it's lack of pacing results in no character substance. Tons of nudity that is done tastefully, there are some sweet post-gore scenes that are really well executed as far as visual fx go. The end is very interpretive, love to hate this in a positive way.

Michael Clayton

Screenwriter Tony Gilroy makes his directorial debut with this dramatic thriller about burned-out corporate lawyer Michael Clayton (George Clooney), who's built a career on cleaning up his clients' messes. When a guilt-ridden colleague (Tom Wilkinson) threatens the settlement of a multimillion-dollar case, Clayton faces his biggest challenge ever. Tilda Swinton (with her first Oscar win), Sydney Pollack and Michael O'Keefe round out the impressive cast.

Michael Clayton is an intellectually charged crime drama with intense dialogged confrontations executed with emotionally tense acting. A very sophisticated plot that accompanies white collar stature with a riveting real-life character balance that draws you in the depths of each individual. This film was amazing.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


In the 12th century, an orphaned young slave named Temudjin (Tadanobu Asano) escapes from his captors and begins the journey that will lead him to become one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known. Honglei Sun and Ying Bai co-star in this Oscar-nominated epic adventure from writer-director Sergei Bodrov, the first in a trilogy that spans the life story of Genghis Khan.

This actually screened at CIFF07. I couldn't get off work to see it.
I will just say there is no need for another Genghis Kahn movie to be made now that this solid portrayal of the emperor has been brought to film. The bloodshed looked so good. Amazing character substance and what can I say, Tadanobu Asano is one of my favorite actors and I have yet to see him in something I haven't really enjoyed. Despite a lot of elaboration on what is actually known about the real life of Temüjin Kahn, it really packs a wallop in every way imaginable. Epic, bloody, beautiful, tragic and historic. You will love it and should see it.

Hit Me

Sonny, a thirty-something bellhop, cares for his mentally retarded brother in their shabby apartment and makes ends meet by stealing goods from the hotel and by procuring sex for hotel guests. But when he hooks up with Del, things get interesting -- fast. Del proposes that Sonny steal money from the hotel safe intended as stakes for a poker game organized by a local crime boss. Better think twice!

Elias Kotea's best and worst is brought out in Steven Shainberg's flaw free genius debut feature, "Hit Me". Do I say "tour de force"? I do. A very well thought out crime thriller full of deception, criminal sadism, twists and turns that are realistic enough to be appreciated, believable and adored. A great overlooked film from one of my favorite directors that should be seen by all.

El Aura

Part character study, part crime drama, The Aura follows reclusive and fastidious taxidermist Espinosa as he moves from dreaming about pulling off the perfect crime to actually planning and executing a real heist. Filmmaker Fabian Bielinsky (Nine Queens) lovingly nurtures Espinosa (Ricardo Darin), creating a complex character whose eerie frozen moments of epileptic seizure (hence the film's title) make for hypnotic viewing.

Easily, undoubtedly, without argument; one of the most inventive, slow burning, brilliantly crafted, noir crime dramas ever made. I kid you not. This is such an amazing character study that delivers a perplexed man, trying to understand his self conjured up demons, facing them without looking at them straight in the eyes and then completely burying them without ever looking back. When I first saw this, my eyes were glued without distraction to the screen, as my heart pounded with excitement I caught a cold sweat and goosebumps at the cold hard dialog and story unfolding in front of me. This film inspired many dreams of mine ever since. It has an infectious after affect that has left a major influential imprint on my mind. I was so bummed when I found out the director had passed away, because whatever he had his head set on next I would be there at his heels begging for an early preview. Just watch this. If you don't like it, stop watching movies.


Eduardo Sanchez (co-creator of The Blair Witch Project) helms another chilling horror film. Five high school buddies are abducted by aliens from a farm in Florida -- but only four of them survive. Fifteen years later, the friends -- whose lives have been altered ever since -- return to the farm to face their enemy and seek revenge. Michael C. Williams (also of Blair Witch fame), Brad William Henke, Adam Kaufman and James Gammon star.

Altered is an awesome backwoods hillbilly sci-fi horror that truly delivers in almost all ways. How any one did not like this film, blows my mind! I actually had a discussion with Ben Rock in regards to this film, he's a friend of Sanchez's and Ben did a movie called Alien Raiders, which is a terrific film as well and I say this because I went and saw Alien Raiders because it was reminiscent of Altered. And Ben did not like Altered. Blew my mind when he said that. Anyway, this is a review here not a name dropping session, ALTERED is great! It has this frivolous overcast but at the same time maintains this genuine tension and straight forwardness that moves along at a heart pounding rate and doesn't let up. The characters are well backgrounded yet enough is left blank to be filled in by the viewer. The effects are mainly practical some very minor CGI, but I may be wrong. The gore is really well done. Not to forget that the resolution is super sweet and it concludes completely on a notion of a sequel that I would totally, back if it were made. Ben Rock loved Seventh Moon, Ed Sanchez's newest effort which I was very critical and partial to. So on that note this one might be hit or miss with certain crowds. A+ for Altered.


A bull terrier named Baxter rids himself of one owner after another in a search for the perfect master in this dark comedy told from the dog's perspective. When the canine meets a young neo-Nazi, Baxter gains a license to vent his growing rage. Empowered by his alienated new owner, Baxter turns into a vicious killer. French director Jérôme Boivin's chilling satire stars Lise Delamare, Jean Mercure and Jacques Spiesser.

How this movie is still rated PG, boggles me. Baxter is one of my favorite movies of all time. A dark comedy/drama about a complex minded bull terrier who narrates his life as he travels from one family and owner to the next trying to find the perfect one for him. Baxter's narratives are genius and really profound in a completely realistic sense. As if it is what a dog would actually ponder in his circumstance but a lot more deep. The ending will tick you off and any film that actually pulls out genuine emotion from it's viewer is a success in my view.(I.E. "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle") HA!

Henry Fool

The little house in Queens depicted in Hal Hartley's 1998 masterpiece is a petri dish of frustrated possibilities. Garbage man Simon (James Urbaniak) is a closet poet; his sister Fay (Parker Posey) is a jaded heartbreaker; and their mother Mary (Maria Porter) is depressed. When the pseudo-intellectual Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) arrives on the scene, he inspires Simon to write, beds Fay and makes waves so high they threaten to engulf everyone.

This film was recommended to me from a fellow co worker who has a plethora of knowledge of weird, under the radar dramas from the 90's, which is a sweet outlet to have when you're a foreign film snob like myself. This is a real gem, with a distinct flavor that leaves an interesting taste in the wake of it's consumption. The acting really is sub par and not as natural as it could be, at the same time it's essential for the feel of the film and prevents it from being a pretentious piece of cinema. Essentially the unnatural depictions become a realistic charm as the characters grow on you and not only do you accept them for what they are, (eccentric) but learn to really understand they are less complicated, yet reassuringly unpredictable in their nature. However, emotionally I was not affected by this movie. It was just very good. Read the synopsis, watch the film and enjoy it.

Donkey Punch

Donkey Punch - UK
Seven sexy young Brits are hanging out on a "borrowed" yacht for a day of drugs, debauchery, and ultimately donkey punching. It's the last activity causes everything to unravel.

Ehhh, a total let down. I don't even want to write a summary on this one.
Didn't show anything that was worth the wait. Wasn't worth the slow burn,
the violence was a real let down. They tried so hard, and failed. Pass it up.


Deadgirl - USA
Exploring an abandoned sanatorium while ditching school, two high school burnouts discover a girl strapped to a gurney in a secluded chamber. Debut directors Gadi Harel and Marcel Sarmiento craft a new breed of teen angst drama set against a backdrop of humor black enough to make John Hughes retreat to a fetal state.

The acting kind of led to the 7.5 of 10 rating. But I couldn't do better, that is for sure.
There are really funny moments throughout the film and the actual DEADGIRL is fucking creepy looking. I can see this becoming a big cult success. It's well shot, well made and the storyline is twisted enough to really pull people in just to go see it for themselves. The ending was very predictable, so there is another reason for the decent rating and not a great one.

La Crème

La Crème - France
Under the Christmas tree, unemployed loser François Margin mysteriously finds a jar of face cream that once applied, temporarily turns him into the most famous celebrity in France.

What a great film! The plot is straight up. Just as the synopsis indicates.
You never find out the origins of the creme. The public situations and their repercussions only get thicker in awkwardness as they come and go. Some very perverse comic relief with a tongue and cheek final resolution. A must see.

Cargo 200

Cargo 200 - Russia
Acclaimed Russian director Aleksei Balabanov interweaves stories of cowardice, corruption and horror set against the backdrop of the birth of perestroika in the Soviet Union.
Based on actual events.

Very intense and emotionally involved, horrific drama that depicts late Soviet in the early mid-80's society as hell on earth. Cargo 200 is a cryptonym used by the Soviet authorities for dead Russian soldiers who were shipped from the afgani war. This film builds and constructs an interweaving cast of characters all connected in variously tragic ways. The main antagonist is as my friend Mark remarked the equivalent of precise sinister evil of Javier Bordem in "No Country for Old Men". And he couldn't be more accurate. This guy is completely fucked up and does to a girl what no one should have the ability or insight to do to anyone. Very subtle too. Very nonchalantly twisted. Almost minimalistic in the sense of believable. I hate reviewing good movies by describing them in great detail, so that's why I am vague.

The Burrowers

The Burrowers - USA
A cross-country manhunt searchers for an abducted woman and a marauding Indian tribe, but the real villains don't ride horses...they burrow from beneath the ground.

I did not realize the anticipation for this film until I was at a film festival for it's premier amongst all the discussion a lot of people were very hyped up on seeing this film. Being a stranger to JT Petty's work (Soft For Digging, S&Man, Mimic 3)
he also writes screenplays, (i.e. Batman Begins, Splinter Cell games, etc)
but despite not knowing his material first hand, I rather enjoyed the film.
It's a straight to video (surprising, on par with Hollywood) Lionsgate release, with some really cool, suspenseful western-horror gore. There is a lot of awesome dialog and the acting is SUPERB! There were a couple things I didn't like which kept me from loving it. The creatures looked like mini-Cloverfields and sounded like Predator... But the storyline, was awesome for many reasons in originality regardless of the tremors HOMAGE. Damn, I forgot how sweet the original Tremors was. I have to see that again soon. It's been over 12 years since I've seen it. Oh yeah, The Burrowers, really good! See it.


Astropia - Iceland
Hildur, a high-society socialite, is left bankrupt and alone after her corrupt husband is whisked off to prison. With no other prospects, she gets a job selling role-playing games and accessories at Astropia, the town's geek Meccas.

This film beat out Pirate of the Caribbean 2 in Iceland taking the number 1 box office spot for weeks. Best grossing film in Icelandic history. Not only that the film industry over there, yeah, they put out literally, not joking, 2 FILMS A YEAR?! Whhhhhhhaaaaaat?
I really did not like this film until they started talking about DVD's and movies. Only because I can't relate to L.A.R.P. ing. I've never been that nerdy. But people in the audience that were into LARPing wow, tons of laughter. The director kind of seemed pretentious, all in black, snazzy button long sleeve shirt with polish pointed dress shoes, slicked back hair, laptop that his eyes never left to converse. Maybe, his English wasn't confident? Anyway, this film has a lot of character development and is pretty funny once it grows on you. It's very nerdy on purpose.
Comic book lovers with ADORE this film.

Alien Raiders

Alien Raiders - USA
A squadron of trained gunmen/women lay siege to a supermarket at closing time. What first appears to be a robbery soon takes on other worldly dimensions.

This was actually a sweet, well acted, low budget film. The director is a fucking super nice down to earth dude that holds a great easy going conversatation with a twisted sense of humor.
The characters are well rounded and convincing, the pace is perfect, never letting up, delivering genuine suspense and laughs at a very acceptably even level. The gore and special FX were really well done, not over done. Just perfect. Impressive.


Acolytes - Australia
James Tresswick and Mark Vincent are victims of a brutal bully named Gary Parker who has maltreated both boys, marking their bodies and spoiling their young lives। In their last year of high school, James and Mark find a way to stop being victims. They're going to kill Gary...

I was at a secret screening of the U.S. premiere of Appaloosa and was really getting annoyed with Renee Zellweger as Allison French. Ugh, and originally I scheduled myself to go see Acolytes but just HAD TO KNOW WHAT THE SECRET screening was. Appaloosa was not bad, I just wasn't in the mood for it. So 35-minutes into the film I sneak out and position myself in Acolytes. It was very atmospheric even in the suburban settings. The plot was convoluted and there were some interesting and creepy well acted characters in it. Everyone seemed to be the antagonist, avenging their own egos and self respect. It was okay.


I'm really at odds with the film scene here in Ohio. It's nothing that is dramatic or personal. It is just an indirect dispersing of like minded film buffs
who are not aware of one another's existence.
There is a presence certainly of individuals who are active in the film industry with the Cleveland Film Society and it's organizers. Is it me or just by looking at who they are, based off conclusive internet documentation, are rich well off individuals only partial or in the complete dark of genre films from over seas. Sure there are some that may be aware if not all of them, but judging by the monotonous selections of the past Cleveland International Film Festivals they are not inclined to take that step beyond a small tiny handful of genre films to subtly throw into the mix of the line up. There are so many ground breaking genre based films sprouting up from Europe and Asia that it is a shame to see such a big roster of films at a renowned film festival fall completely threw the cracks, not making it into the CIFF line ups. Now it could be because they are too edgy or too offensive, etc. But I really think it's because there is a lack of daring and well resourced members of the Cleveland Film Society.
Do not get me wrong there have been a lot of great films at the CIFF but in tone, pace and diversity there just seems to be a robust aroma of monotony. Whether they be from any country there is just not an impressive array of diversity other than the fact there are a lot of different countries films are coming from. Some would argue it's because they are trying to get a lot of different countries into the fest giving all countries a representative film as an entry. With that the roster was really because of that particular country only having this one film that had enough power to be worthy of CIFF. That could be true but not in all case. In fact not in the majority of countries indefinitely. So pretty much since there is this monetary elitism segregation of this so called "FILM SCENE" in Cleveland which virtually does not exist,
I am starting something up myself. Starting at the very bottom and hoping to bring in a lot of people who can, will and shall trust my judgment on film. Quite snobby by perception of reading my blog, but if you ever met me, you would realize it's an open passion not elitism.
Let's see how this goes. One step at a time. I will be posting reviews up on this blog and filling people in on news of cinema from around the world including what the Cleveland Film Society is up to. Despite my aforementioned remarks, I am very grateful to the Cleveland Film Society for existing and bringing some sort of film scene to this dying city.