Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Red Road

Another new film from the New Directors/New Films Festival at Lincoln Center, "Red Road" centers on the particular path chosen by a lonely woman who works for the Glasgow, Scotland "City Eye" agency. Apparently Glasgow has surveillance cameras set up all over the city and "City Eye" monitors activity 24 hours a day.

When "Jackie", played by Kate Dickie glimpses a man from her past during her surveillance shift, it sets in motion a life changing series of events. To reveal more would spoil a terrific 3rd act when many answers come in unexpected ways.

The film is very slow to start. It's a deliberate act by the director to pull you into the boredom of Jackie's world. As the film progresses, the pace quickens and leads to a highly emotional payoff. This is a story of grief, forgiveness, redemption, and renewal. Kate Dickie is excellent as "Jackie", a woman longing for a closure buried deep inside her. Martin Compston, who showed promise in "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints", is volatile as "Stevie" and Tony Curran is terrific as "Clyde", a man with a terrible past trying to start again.

The strong Scottish accents are supported by subtitles for an American audience. Opens in limited release April 13th.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Salty Air

From the New Directors/New Films series at Lincoln Center comes this emotional debut feature by Alessandro Angelini. When a social worker in an Italian prison begins to suspect a newly transferred prisoner may be his father, whom he hasn't seen for 20 years, guilt, grief, and redemption collide as a family's old wounds reopen.

The acting is terrific especially by Giorgio Pasetti as Sparti, the convict forced to confront his past. Directed with authority by Mr. Angelini, "Salty Air" packs an emotional punch that will stay with you long after you leave the theater. In Italian, with no set American release date as yet.


Short on plot but long on action, "300" tells the story of the 300 Spartan soldiers who did their best to defend Greece from the advance of an overwhelming Persian army. The film borrows the plot from history but is literally based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller.

As shot, the film basically plays as a live action graphic novel much in the vein of "Sin City", another Frank Miller graphic novel brought to the screen. It is a dark and moody film. The cinematography is awash in blacks and grays offset by splashes of red blood. Much of the film is CGI generated but seamlessly incorporated into the visuals.

The action is ferocious, violent and a visceral treat for fans of the genre. If this type of film appeals to you, try your best to see it on an IMAX screen where it can truly overwhelm your senses.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Lives of Others

Winner of the Oscar for last years best foreign film, I can see now why this beat out my favorite film of last year, "Pan's Labyrinth". Written and directed by Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck, "Lives of Others" is his feature film debut. Based on this outstanding drama, you would think Mr. Henckel Von Donnersmarck was a seasoned film maker with many films already in his resume.

Set in East Berlin, circa 1984, "The Lives Of Others" centers on The Stasi, the East German secret police and their hold over the populace of pre-Glasnost East Germany. When one Stasi agent is assigned to spy on a writer and his actress girlfriend, he finds himself beginning to question his own beliefs and values.

The acting is just exceptional, particularly Ulrich Muhe as the Stasi agent, Captain Weisler. Without a car chase in sight, the tension mounts as many lives hang in the balance of one man's actions. The film has so many subtle moments of emotional impact, it will haunt you for days. The last half hour, in particular, is riveting right up to the very end.

Do not miss this amazing film. In German, with English subtitles.


Immaculately detailed with fine acting, "Zodiac" tells the true story of the serial killer that plagued the San Francisco Bay area for almost 20 years. Director David Fincher gets everything right. The costumes, sets, props and music all faithfully recreate the period of time from 1968 through the nineties.

San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, along with crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) all become increasingly obsessed with the case and Graysmith eventually writes a book about it which formed the screenplay for the film.

The quality of film making here is impeccable but in order to get every detail right, the film clocks in at about 2 hours and 40 minutes. In some instances, the days and years pass quickly, propelling the story forward without missing any of the necessary details but the length of the film, filled with a great deal of dialogue, can be draining on the viewer.

While a story about a serial killer, "Zodiac" is not your typical "slasher" film. There are some violent scenes recreating the murders but the film can best be described as the finest investigative journalism movie since "All The President's Men".