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1:00 PM on 08.31.2014

Review: Kundo: Age of the Rampant

When I decide to watch a movie, it is usually based on two thing: Whether or not the press picture implies some kind of action. The runtime. While there's obviously some leeway on the first one, once a movie pushes past the...

Alec Kubas-Meyer

Review: A Field in England photo
Review: A Field in England
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

Did you know that there was an English Civil War in the middle of the 17th century? I had no idea, but apparently from 1642 to 1651, there were three sets of battles between those who followed the king and those who believed in a parliamentarian system. In the end, parliamentary won out, leading to the system that currently exists today. In the process, at least 100,000 people were killed.

All pretty interesting stuff, but I learned none of it from A Field in England, a historical thriller ostensibly set during that time period. In fact, I didn't learn anything from the film, other than the limits of my attention span.

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Review: Inside Llewyn Davis photo
Review: Inside Llewyn Davis
by Hubert Vigilla

The trailers for Inside Llewyn Davis don't quite capture the feel of the film. If you watch them, there's a kind of satiny look about the imagery, something that to me denoted an air of nostalgia for New York in 1961. Yet the colors are desaturated, with purpose. The most colorful thing in the film is the orange cat that runs away at the beginning, just as our title character played by Oscar Isaac slips out the door of an acquaintance's apartment.

Llewyn's crashing at another person's place because he's a failure as a folk singer, and mainly a failure at life. His best isn't good enough for anyone, and yet he persists against his good judgement, trying not to sell out or sell himself short.

That satiny finish in the trailers is our hero's haze of disillusionment rather than nostalgia. We're given something funny in the clever, rapid fire manner the Coen brothers excel at, or at least something funny until it's not anymore. Mostly, Inside Llewyn Davis is bitter and resentful at the washed-out world of phonies. No wonder the title character is such a lovable schmuck.

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Japan Cuts Review: The Floating Castle photo
Japan Cuts Review: The Floating Castle
by Hubert Vigilla

There's inherent drama in stories about impossible odds, and some of the better one involve samurais in Feudal Japan. In Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, it was the title band against a horde of bandits (I think it's 40 to 50, off the top of my head). In Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, it's them against 200 well-trained soldiers.

The Floating Castle features even more insurmountable odds: 500 versus 20,000. While based on actual history, the film is more of a riff on history than a recreation of it. There's action, there's slapstick, there's surprising pathos, and there's intrigue. I think a lot of that comes from the film's main character, Nagachika Narita, or Lord Bone as the villagers call him, and what actor Mansai Nomura is able to bring to his performance.

[For the next few weeks, we will be covering the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival and the 2013 Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF 2013 coverage, click here. For Japan Cuts 2013 coverage, click here.]

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11:00 AM on 07.16.2013

12 Years a Slave trailer delivers drama and power

Update: A poster has been released and can now be viewed. It has running on it.  Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave may mark the directors first foray into a bigger budget film, but it doesn't look like he's lost any...

Matthew Razak

NYAFF Review: The Bullet Vanishes photo
NYAFF Review: The Bullet Vanishes
by Hubert Vigilla

There's an observation in This Is Spinal Tap that sums up the dilemma of many detective stories: there's a fine line between clever and stupid.

Successful detective stories provide satisfying solutions to mysteries, no matter how improbable. Given, most of these stories don't give a reader or viewer a chance to guess the solution on their own, but if the story can be told with enough intrigue, the resolution winds up satisfying so long as it avoids impossibility.

The Bullet Vanishes is clever for the vast majority of its runtime. While it never becomes completely stupid, the film borders on stupidity because it tries to be too clever one time too many. It's like in cartoons where a comically large load on someone's back is perfectly fine, but then a feather lightly falls on top and makes everything too heavy.

[For the next few weeks, we will be covering the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival and the 2013 Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF 2013 coverage, click here. For Japan Cuts 2013 coverage, click here.]

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8:00 PM on 07.01.2013

Trailer: Inside Llewyn Davis

A new trailer dropped today for Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest from the Coen Brothers. Like the red band trailer from a while back, this trailer has a lot of deadpan humor and dry delivery. I'm not quite sure what to make o...

Hubert Vigilla

9:00 AM on 05.09.2013

Trailer: Inside Llewyn Davis (Red Band)

Here's a new red band trailer for the Coen Brothers's Inside Llewyn Davis, and it's pretty similar to the previous trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis back in January. There's some new and different snippets of footage slipped i...

Hubert Vigilla

Review: Something in the Air photo
Review: Something in the Air
by Hubert Vigilla

Confession time: the only Olivier Assayas movie I'd seen prior to Something in the Air was Irma Vep starring Maggie Cheung, which I really enjoyed. Summer Hours, Clean, and Carlos have been on my to-see list for a while, and I hope to get to them soon whenever some free time opens up.

With Something in the Air, Assayas gets semi-autobiographic for his coming-of-age story. It's the France of May 1968. A massive student and worker revolt is taking place and it seems like the start of genuine cultural revolution and economic change. Demonstrations turn to riots, general strikes occur, the French government fears the power of the people.

But it's a moment of naive hope that lasts only so long, sort of like summer vacation.

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Review: Blancanieves photo
Review: Blancanieves
by Hubert Vigilla

Pablo Berger's Blancanieves will inevitably draw comparisons to Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist since both are silent films. (Blancanieves was Spain's official Oscar entry last year, and I suspect the silent film form was part of what kept it out of the final Best Foreign Language pool.) While I can understand the impulse to compare the two, the films are so different in their approach. The Artist is an homage to traditional silent filmmaking and the conventions of those plots. Blancanieves, on the other hand, is a chimera: a retelling of Snow White as a silent period film made with contemporary camerawork and editing.

As I watched Blancanieves, I was captivated by its formal choices and its deft use of the soundtrack. It's more than just shtick. By mixing the filmmaking form of one era with modern sensibilities and by retelling a Brothers Grimm story in 1920s Spain, the film is unmoored from any fixed point in history. It's how Berger achieves the magical sense of timelessness found in fairy tales -- something like "Once upon a time."

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8:00 AM on 03.28.2013

Details on Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom was our pick for the best comedy of 2012. Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is another period piece and it may lead to back-to-back Golden Pterodactyls for best comedy. Fox Sear...

Hubert Vigilla

4:00 PM on 01.10.2013

Featurette: Gangster Squad

I feel like I've been waiting for this movie since I saw Drive last year and now it's almost finally here! This brief featurette for Gangster Squad features short clips of some of the main actors describing what it was like ...

Liz Rugg

1:00 PM on 12.27.2012

Trailer: The Assassins

There's a certain kind of sumptuousness to Chinese period epics, like John Woo's Red Cliff or the films of Chen Kaige. Zhao Yiyang's The Assassins has a pretty good vibe going here in this trailer, and I'm interested to chec...

Hubert Vigilla

11:00 AM on 12.27.2012

Big ensemble cast for Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel

The cast for Wes Anderson's new film is set, and it's one hell of an ensemble. (Johnny Depp is not involved with the film, by the way, contrary to our report a few months ago. Ditto Angela Lansbury.) The Grand Budapest Hotel ...

Hubert Vigilla

Review: Django Unchained photo
Review: Django Unchained
by Geoff Henao

Quentin Tarantino and his style of filmmaking really don't need an introduction. With a directorial career spanning over two decades and eight films (not including the films he's co-written/produced/introduced/etc.), Tarantino's been somewhat of a whirlwind in Hollywood with his stylistic vision and film-obsessed knowledge. If you've somehow never seen a Tarantino film, let alone heard of him, Django Unchained might actually be a great primer for new viewers. It's no Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction, but still a worthy addition to the Tarantino canon.

Then again, aren't they all?

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10:00 AM on 12.17.2012

Trailer: Drift

As much as I hate to say it, Sam Worthington is "that guy" of the movie industry. He's starred in huge blockbusters (Avatar, Clash of the Titans, Terminatior Salva...oh wait, that one doesn't count) and yet remains completel...

Thor Latham

Review: Lincoln photo
Review: Lincoln
by Geoff Henao

Depicting another person's life has to be one of the most daunting jobs to take in Hollywood. Considering the protagonist of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is, arguably, the greatest President the United States has ever had, the bar was certainly raised far higher than most other real-life depictions. However, with a methodically-dedicated method actor in Daniel Day-Lewis cast to fill in Abe's broad shoulders, the chances of Lincoln's greatness seems almost guaranteed.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed in Hollywood...

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Review: Anna Karenina photo
Review: Anna Karenina
by Xander Markham

[This review was originally posted in September to coincide with the UK release of Anna Karenina. It has been reposted to coincide with the US release of the film.]

After a run of trying-too-hard Oscarbait pictures, Joe Wright's Hanna looked like a concerted effort to make a movie for people who didn't work at the Academy and perhaps went to the cinema to, heaven forfend, be entertained. Unfortunately, Anna Karenina sees him return to all his worst habits: a historical adaptation of a classic novel more concerned with being a showcase for the director than telling a story or building emotionally complex characters.

In faint recognition of his reputation for directing this kind of movie, Wright sets his interpretation of Karenina in an abandoned theatre, a gimmick seemingly designed to satirise the artifice and posturing that have become staples of the period genre. It's a decent idea, except Wright gets so caught up in it he neglects to add any depth beneath the dazzling surface.

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1:00 PM on 09.25.2012

Thomas Vinterberg to adapt Far From The Madding Crowd

Period dramas are ten a penny these days, as someone from a period drama might say, so you need a writer or director with an interesting voice to put a witty spin on the exhausted genre. Even so, finding the right balance bet...

Xander Markham

1:00 PM on 08.06.2012

Trailer: On the Road

The second trailer for the On the Road adaptation has emerged. While sharing some of the same scenes as in the first trailer, the editing makes it feel more lively and upbeat. Reviews out of Cannes were pretty mixed for the highly-anticipated film, but my reservations will be held until the film is released in theaters around Christmas time. Is anybody else as excited about the film as I am?

Geoff Henao

NYAFF Review: Sacrifice photo
NYAFF Review: Sacrifice
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[For the month of July, we will be covering the New York Asian Film Festival and the (also New York-based) Japan Cuts Film Festival, which together form one of the largest showcases of Asian cinema in the world. For our NYAFF coverage, head over here. For Japan Cuts, here.]

With so many sword fighting-intensive movies showing at NYAFF, it takes a lot to make any particular one stand out. The fights need to be intense, the choreography needs to be perfect, and the clang of sword-on-sword needs to sound like a symphony. But it can't just do that once. That quality needs to be there from beginning to end. Having one awesome action scene followed by some entirely-servicable-but-nothing-special ones might have been find elsewhere, but it's definitely not enough here.

Unfortunately, the makers of Sacrifice seem to have missed the memo.

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Review: The Sword with No Name photo
Review: The Sword with No Name
by Alec Kubas-Meyer

[Korean Movie Night NY finishes its "Epic Romance" series with Kim Yong-Gyun's The Sword with No Name. If you live in New York City, you can see this film for free at the Tribeca Cinemas tomorrow night (June 16th) at 7 PM. More information can be found here.]

At the risk of giving this review an unnecessarily religious overtone, I want to point out how interesting it is to see Christianity as a persecuted religion. It's not something I've seen a lot of in movies (usually it's Christianity doing the persecution), even in historical ones. This is the only film of the four that were shown as part of the "Epic Romance" series that deals with religion. But Christianity isn't the point, nor is religion. Nor is it really about romance, for that matter.

So maybe I don't know what it's about. That doesn't matter. I still liked it.

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