Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Treeless Mountain

Cute kids + Korea = SHR's favorite movie of the year. I really liked it as well. Inspired by the Japanese film Nobody Knows, the film is about two sisters -(six-year-old Jin and her little sister Bin) who are dropped off by their mom with her alcoholic sister. The mom doesn't know how long she'll be gone. Her goal is to attempt to reconcile with her husband. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months.

Most of the movie is about the two little girls as they try to deal with their confusion and loneliness. Before their mom left, she gave them a piggy bank and told them that she would be back when the piggy bank was completely full. Of course, this leads to some gutwrenching scenes as the girls inch their way closer to and then successfully fill the bank.

Every scene is perfect. Every image is lovely. Between this and In Between Days, SHR and I have found Team HR's favorite director.

Directed by So Yong Kim
2008, U.S. Release: 2009
DVD

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sugar

There's just something off about Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's movies. I should have loved this movie. It's about baseball and immigration - two subjects I'm interested in. Their last movie, Half Nelson, also was about two subjects I'm quite interested in - teaching and crack. But both movies don't quite gel for me. In that regard, their films remind me of Ramin Bahrani's films that I've seen (Man Push Cart and Chop Shop) - movies that look great, have fascinating topics but just aren't as good as they should be.

This one felt like a made for Lifetime movie for a good portion. The soundtrack was terrible. It also felt like the filmmakers either didn't know that much about baseball or thought that their audience wouldn't. It just didn't feel realistic baseball wise. For example, at one point, Sugar hits a batter which leads to a bench clearing brawl. However, he simply walks off the mound and into the dugout. Yet no one comes after him. What? This scene exemplifies some of the major weaknesses of the film. As he walks to the dugout, the sound disappears and the slow motion kicks in. There were a few scenes like this and they all felt completely heavyhanded.

But there were a number of positives as well. I really liked the last 1/3 - after he stopped playing baseball. The actor who played Sugar had never acted before and had been discovered by the filmmakers during an audition in the Dominican Republic. He was very good. I liked the host family while he was in Iowa. I also loved seeing the great ballpark in Davenport play such a prominent role in the film. Plus, the documentaries about the making of the film as well as the premiere in the DR were very entertaining. Sammy Sosa is such a doofus.

Maybe one of these days, Fleck and Boden will live up to their potential and make some great movies. I hope so.

Has anyone else seen this film? The Blu-ray disc subtitled everything - even the dialogue that was in English. Was this the way the film was supposed to be? Very odd.

Directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden
2009
Blu-Ray

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pusher

I'd heard about this trilogy for awhile but hadn't gotten around to seeking it out. The Sundance Channel has been pushing (pun intended) it recently so I decided to give the first part a chance. Good call. It is quite good.

At first, I was afraid it was going to be a dumb post Pulp Fiction crime type flick. But my fears were quickly allayed after the opening credits. It is quite low budget and super 70's gritty.

Basically, it is about a low level drug dealer who gets in way over his head and becomes more and more of a badass as the movie goes on. But he's still not the brightest guy so things don't quite go according to plan.

It also feels very mid 90's to me in a good way. Anything that makes me feel like I'm in my mid 20's again can't be too bad, right?

All in all, I really liked this film and am looking forward to watching the second part which just appeared on demand.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn
1997
Sundance on Demand

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Imitation of Life

Douglas Sirk's movies are like nothing else I've seen. So melodramatic yet so socially conscious at the same time. This one mixes two mother-daughter relationships with the burgeoning civil rights movement. I mean, obviously.

The movie is full of memorable lines. One of my favorites is uttered by a sleazy Hollywood type hitting on the lovely Lana Turner, "You are decent, no doubt possessing fine principles. Well, me, I'm a man of very few principles ... and they are all open for revision."

Directed by Douglas Sirk
1959
HBO

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Apocalypse Now Redux

The first time I saw this movie in the early 90's with Rich, I was disappointed. I wasn't expecting such weirdness. I was expecting more of a straight up war flick.

By the time this version came out in 2001, I was ready for it and was blown away. Seeing it again solidified how much I am in awe of it.

The first half is perfect. The second half perfectly encapsulates a descent into hell and madness. Yes - two of the added scenes (the stranded Playboy bunnies and the stubborn Frenchies) aren't necessarily necessary, but they do add to the insane nature of the 2nd half.

There are so many classic scenes in this movie. I could watch the Duvall scenes on an endless loop and never get sick of them. The battle scenes are horrifying and some of the best I've ever seen in a movie. The Playboy bunnies performance/almost riot in the jungle is amazing.

By the time Brando makes his appearance, the whole movie is one big hallucinatory nightmare. Brilliant.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
1979, Redux: 2001
HBO

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Stolen Kisses

The first time I saw this movie was in my first month of living in New York. I'm pretty sure that I saw this as part of a double feature with Bed and Board at Symphony Space. I loved them both. This movie reminds me of how excited I was when I had first moved to NYC.

This is the third part of the Antoine Doinel series with The 400 Blows being the first. This one is about Doinel in his early 20's. After a series of failed jobs, he ends up working at a detective agency. He is put in charge of the case of why everyone dislikes the owner of a shoe store. The client is the owner himself who can't figure out why no one likes him.

This film is super lightweight but it works. Leaud always puts me in a good mood and the 90 minutes breezes by. This movie is whimsical in the best way.

Not to mention Jean-Pierre Leaud couldn't be more of doppelganger for Bart in this movie.


Directed by Francois Truffaut
1968
DVD