September 20, 2016
The science fiction film genre offers so much potential. It’s too bad that it’s so easy to screw up (see this recent review). But then, you have movies like The Man Who Fell to Earth, something I once called “the last of the great sci-fi revolution.” Then, of course, there’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film I wrote my MA thesis on. It is among those inventive, quality movies that the 1973 animated film Fantastic Planet (La planète sauvage) stands. Now this film directed by René Laloux has been restored for 4K theatrical presentation, and it’s coming to our South Florida area thanks to the Miami Beach Cinematheque.
The People vs. Fritz Bauer presents the story of Attorney General Fritz Bauer, a Jew on a quest to prosecute the crimes of the Third Reich, as he was also briefly in a concentration camp, at one point. The action is set in motion when he learns that Adolf Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel responsible for mass deportations, is not only alive but living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. To be sure, Eichmann is one of the worst Nazi officials, and in today’s political climate it would be hard to imagine that his prosecution would be riddled with difficulties, yet as this film shows, even in the late 1950s the political climate in Germany was not as progressive as it is today.
September 15, 2016
If it’s hard for Terrence Malick to weave together an affecting story from shreds of beautifully photographed pastiche and disembodied voice over, then imagine one of his acolytes giving it a try. With that in mind, The Vessel, the feature-length directorial debut of Julio Quintana, a camera operator who worked with Malick on The Tree of Life and To the Wonder, actually comes across as quite accomplished.
September 14, 2016
Director Ron Howard takes advantage of the wealth of archival photos and videos of the Beatles to recreate their touring years in his most recent film, Eight Days A Week. The documentary captures that sense of wonder that fans of the Beatles once had as this new phenomenon emerged and became a cultural icon. The style of the documentary is straightforward, as is the narrative, which follows a chronological, linear direction. The talking heads in the documentary are interspersed with stills and abundant video footage of the Beatles in action, some of it never seen until now.
September 2, 2016
In the documentary In The Land of the Enlightened two worlds collide visually, technically and spiritually. This is a hybrid documentary, meaning some shots were staged while others focus on the environment of Afghanistan and its people through an observational style. The cast, if you may call it that, are all real people. Some of the action scenes are rehearsed and others are presented as they happen. The blur between fiction and non-fiction is intentional, as Belgium Director and Photographer Pieter-Jan De Pue takes on a non-traditional view of how to craft a true story, with imagines elements that respond to a lived experience of Afghanistan, rather than real-life depictions. Shot over seven years, the documentary focuses on the lives of a group of children who are also fighters. Their lives are all about survival and war in the mountains of Afghanistan.
The new documentary Plaza de la Soledad is an artistic rumination on aging that presents interwoven stories of different low-income Mexican women who are in their golden years. Although the stories told by each of these women vary, what they all have in common is they are facing their later years as prostitutes. The documentary offers an unflinching and intimate examination of everyday life for these women who seldom have a voice and are often judged harshly.
With his directorial debut, Morgan, Luke Scott — son of Ridley Scott — can’t seem to see past his own ego to acknowledge inherit flaws in the script by screenwriter Seth W. Owen. In fact, Scott’s direction only enhances fundamental issues in this sci-fi/thriller’s logic. Scott’s seemingly giddy self-satisfaction at trying to present a twisting story is so much in the way of his storytelling that most people will see the film’s “surprise” ending coming within the first few seconds of the movie. All you have to do is not blink when you first see Kate Mara on screen to notice a tick that was supposed to be a quirk become a giveaway.