Home Video Hovel: On Strike! Chris Marker and the Medvedkin Group, by Craig Schroeder

30 Oct

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Eight hour days, working wages, benefits and revolution make great fodder for a twenty-something kid from the suburbs whose Spotify play history is ninety percent Against Me! and Bruce Springsteen. But melodies about “revolution” and the “working class” are often romanticized for the sake of punk and rock music. But Chris Marker, French photographer and director, and his collective of revolutionaries known as the Medvedkin Group, put the tenants of a working class revolution front and center. With Icarus Films’ release of On Strike!: Chris Marker and the Medvedkin Group–which is actually two films: Be Seeing You, directed by Chris Marker, and Class of Struggle, by the Medvedkin Group–Chris Marker provides a first hand account of the day-to-day struggles of workers trampled by a capitalist system without restraint.

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Home Video Hovel: Flex Is Kings, by Craig Schroeder

30 Oct

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At the risk of aging myself nearly seventy years: I’m not up on dance trends. I never know. I’m always the last one to find out. I’m a guy who was involved in a Harlem Shake video at least two months too late and the only dance move I’ve mastered is the Drinking-A-Beer-While-I-Dance-At-A-Wedding-To-Show-I’m-Not-Taking-This-Dancing-Business-Seriously Shuffle. Given this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I knew nothing about “flexing”, the type of dance featured in the documentary Flex Is Kings. Having watched it, I now know (sort of); but despite being about flex dancers in Brooklyn, Flex is Kings is really a film about the highs and lows of chasing a life in a creative field.

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Top 5 Home Invasion Horror Films, by Kate Voss

30 Oct

Halloween’s around the corner, and what better way to spend it than watching intruder horror flicks when you’re home alone? Home invasion films are exactly as the name implies: movies that feature a killer breaking into the protagonist’s home as a major plot device. Films like these are often hailed as the most frightening films in the horror genre, and for good reason. Here are our top five home invasion horror movie picks for a terrifying Halloween movie night:

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Petty Crimes, by Scott Nye

30 Oct

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As elated as I can often be by the more overtly entertaining entries in modern cinema, there is one thing often missing from them – a sense of choice, that the protagonists are active participants in the story in which they’re trapped. Modern blockbuster cinema features predominantly reactive characters who rise to battle whatever challenge faces them. Wild Tales takes a different approach to its stories (six vignettes, in all), featuring characters who are consistently faced with rather mundane predicaments and actively doing everything in their power to complicate, distort, and often worsen their station. And while this “yes, and?” approach to perverse stories full of sex, violence, revenge, and betrayal may not be the stuff of billion-dollar franchises…what can I say, I had a blast.

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Home Video Hovel: Stunt Squad, by David Bax

29 Oct

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Raro Video is a company with a commendable dedication to putting out high quality Blu-rays of cult rarities. Some of these are arthouse gems. Some of them are Euro-exploitation grindhouse fare. Some of them are both (like this past summer’s release of Michelangelo Antonioni’s sharp, provocative I Vinti). Most all of them are damned cool, in one way or another. But Domenico Paolella’s Stunt Squad is the rare misfire, exhibiting copious, lurid violence but with a desperate paucity of style.

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Into the Open, by David Bax

29 Oct

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Note: this review originally ran as part of our Los Angeles Film Festival coverage in 2013.

Back in 2002, Alex and Andrew Smith made a film called The Slaughter Rule. That movie – about an angry teenager processing the death of his father while balancing the struggles of his replacement paternal figure, his football coach, and the peculiarities of becoming a man himself – made a deep impression on me. I consider it to be the among the best and most frustratingly underseen films of its decade. So it was with great eagerness that I jumped at the chance, eleven years later, to see the Smiths’ follow-up, Winter in the Blood.

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I Do Movies Badly: Bride of Frankenstien

29 Oct

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In this episode, Jim watches Jim Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, recommended by Tyler Smith.

Unquiet Americans: 1941, by Aaron Pinkston

29 Oct

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A beautiful young woman disrobes and runs into an empty ocean. All of a sudden, the serene waterscape is interrupted by something familiar on the soundtrack… ba dum ba dum baadum baadum… Panic begins to wash over the young woman’s face as she realizes she is not alone in the water. For a second, one might think they started watching the wrong movie. Nope, this isn’t Jaws, but another Steven Spielberg film made just two years later. This one is a comedy about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

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Risible, by David Bax

29 Oct

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A lot of the PR around the release of Jan Komasa’s Warsaw Uprising has been about the unique back story of the footage itself. Using hours and hours of film shot during the two months in 1944 that Warsaw citizens spent rebelling against the Nazis, Poland’s Warsaw Uprising Museum has restored and, oddly, colorized an extensive documentation of a little told chapter of World War II. Colorization is usually a controversial process but this isn’t a Frank Capra classic we’re talking about. The clear intention is to increase the immediacy of the images and make them more impactful and realistic to movie-goers of today. In that – and almost only in that – the creators were successful.

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Home Video Hovel: The Last Sentence, by Aaron Pinkston

28 Oct

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Jan Troell is an internationally renowned filmmaker with two Academy Award nominations (writing and directing for The Emigrants) and has a film in the Criterion Collection (Everlasting Moments). He was also a complete blind spot for me. Though his newest film, The Last Sentence, isn’t considered to be among his best work, I can see why his filmmaking is so highly regarded. The Last Sentence is a quietly powerful film with a capital-i Important subject. It is expertly staged and shot with beautiful black-and-white cinematography. A more cynical take, however, would say that it is a stodgy and monotone film without much modern appeal. Unfortunately, this take isn’t entirely out of place. While this is an impressive production from a very competent filmmaker, I was left a bit cold.

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