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Criterion Prediction #3: The Testament of Dr. Cordelier, by Alexander Miller

7 Oct


Title: The Testament of Dr. Cordelier

Year: 1959

Director: Jean Renoir

Cast Jean Louis Barrault, Teddy Bilis, Michele Vitold and Sylvane Margollé


The TV Room: Welcome to Sweden Season 2, by David Bax

31 Jul


On the one hand, it’s not hard to understand why NBC pulled the plug on Welcome to Sweden just four episodes into its second season. The show never, at least in the episodes we saw, found its voice. It went back and forth between broad, slapstick humor and low-key absurdism. And, as an international coproduction, it tried to pander to both its Swedish and its U.S. audiences. On the other hand, however, it’s a bummer to see the series cut down just as it was starting to address these issues and become a better show.


The TV Room: Inside Amy Schumer Season 3, by David Bax

13 Jul


When you’re piecing together your reaction to a work of art that takes place over time (be it a movie, a novel or a season of a television show), the ending has a natural tendency to loom largest. After all, it’s the part that you just got done experiencing. The last couple episodes of the third season of Inside Amy Schumer were the weakest, not to mention that the show unofficially culminated in the release of Schumer’s underwhelming feature film debut, Trainwreck. So it might take a moment and some perspective to recognize that this was the best season yet.


LA Film Fest Review: No Mas Bebes, by David Bax

15 Jun


In most discussions or arguments, comparing your opponent to the Nazis is a sort of nuclear option that tends to obliterate the entire substance of both sides. Early in Renee Tajima-Peña’s No Más Bebés, that option is invoked. What’s truly shocking and infuriating is that the film goes on make a damn good case in support of the comparison, even though it is impossible to find many human architects on whom to pin it.


Home Video Hovel: Cupcakes, by Aaron Pinkston

7 Jun


When I first heard about Cupcakes, it didn’t immediately grab my interest. Frankly, everything about the name and poster of the film seemed cheesy and sugary (much like a cheese filled cupcake). Then I saw that Cupcakes was written and directed by Eytan Fox and that immediately turned me around. His previous films, in particular Yossi & Jagger and its sequel Yossi, are sweet and entertaining films while exploring full characters in dramatic, sometimes tragic, relationships. Cupcakes is more broadly comedic and focuses a little more on plot, but it doesn’t completely sacrifice the character work for which Fox is known. And yet it’s still as sweet as first anticipated – though I shouldn’t have been so hesitant.


Extra Expendable, by Aaron Pinkston

6 May


When you are about to watch a film starring the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Ron Perlman, Tony Jaa and Michael Jai White, you bring in certain expectations. It’s not really fair, nor possible, to judge Skin Trade as anything other than what those expectations set. There is obvious joy in seeing Lundgren as a cop on the hunt for revenge, Peter Weller as a disgruntled police captain and Perlman as a sinister Serbian sex trafficker – and there is plenty of that to go around. Skin Trade doesn’t always want to rely on being a simply fun, violent action film and the need for “big social issue” plotting is rough around the edges. I’m not sure if its sex trade stance makes Skin Trade a better film, but it is a decent ride with plenty of action.


Into the Open, by David Bax

29 Oct


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.


Home Video Hovel: We’re in the Movies: Palace of Silents & Itinerant Filmmaking, by Aaron Pinkston

21 Jul


In the early silent era, filmmakers traveled the United States to find stories in small communities. Called “itinerant filmmakers,” they used locals to act and work on the films. Though the results may not be as spectacular as the big Hollywood pictures made by Chaplin, Keaton or Griffith, they became some of the most authentic documents of their time and helped invigorate these small communities. For fans of silent film that are interested in more than the more famous standards, a new collection released by Flicker Alley is noteworthy. We’re in the Movies: Palace of Silents & Itinerant Filmmaking features two previously unreleased documentaries on silent cinema and a number of under-seen itinerant silent films.


Big Country, by David Bax

9 Jul


Aaron Katz has made some good films. His last one, 2010’s Cold Weather, was a delightful and sharp Long Goodbye-style detective story riff that languidly bounced from tangent to tangent with often hilarious results without ever losing sight of its propulsive central mystery. Katz’s team-up with Martha Stephens (she made 2012’s Pilgrim Song, which I have not seen), Land Ho!, is full of respectable filmmaking acumen but contains none of the quirk that makes a movie rise above mere time-passing. It’s a pleasant enough experience on the surface but its lack of identity leaves a void into which rushes, whether intentionally or not, some of the more regrettable aspects of its lead characters.


The Auteurcast: The Grand Budapest Hotel

31 May


In this episode, Rudie and West continue their series on Wes Anderson with a discussion of his latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.