Good things out this week. Spidie 3 comes out this week, also, but you don't need me to tell you that.
Day Watch (2006) directed by Timur Bekmambetov
"Day Watch opens in the 14th Century, where Tamerlan, a Mongol warrior, acquires an implement called 'The Chalk of Destiny,' that can be used to guide the course of history. Eons later (in the present day), the Day Watch and the Night Watch are ongoing. Two Warriors of Light, Anton Gorodensky and his protégé/partner-in-training, Svetlana quietly develop feelings for one another as they patrol the Night Watch together. As the story progresses, the pair must respond to a distress call from an octogenarian victim of a vampiric attack - an attack committed (as it turns out) by Anton's 12-year-old son Egor - now a Warrior of Darkness. Anton must suddenly wrestle with two conflicting desires - the need to protect his offspring by destroying incriminating evidence, and his own desire to remain loyal to the Night Watch."
* This is the second in the trilogy, Night Watch, Day Watch and Twilight Watch. The last installment is due out soon. Although these aren't going to be the best Russian films you will ever see, they are entertaining and give Hollywood a run for it's money.
No End in Sight (2007) directed by Charles Ferguson.
"Filmmmaker Charles Ferguson draws on over 200 hours of footage to explore the manner in which the fundamental flaws in U.S. policy created the chaos that threatens to plunge the nation of Iraq into civil war. Interviews with a collection of high-ranking officials including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and General Jay Garner offer candid insight into the ways that insufficient troop levels, the disbanding of the Iraqi military, and the removal of professionals from the Iraqi government contributed to the insurgency that would continue to destabilize Iraq long after President George W. Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished' back in 2003, while additional conversations with Iraqi citizens, American soldiers, and renowned analysts offer a more intimate take on the tragic quagmire."
* Paul Arthur in Film Comment declared this documentary the best documentary so far on Iraq. Or to be more specific he writes, "The ability of No End in Sight to convincingly link disparate aspects of our imperial misadventure, from civilian contractors to the empowerment of Iran, makes it the first can't-miss Iraq doc to appear thus far." I would have to agree. It is really heartbreaking to see the deliberate mis-handling of the entire situation.
Black Night (2004) directed by Oliver Smolders
"In a world overtaken by eternal darkness, the buttoned down entomologist abandons his phantoms to embrace the unknown. Oscar (Fabrice Rodriguez) is a conservator at the Natural Science Museum, and spends most of his days surrounded by bugs. When Oscar isn't tending to the tiny specimens that line his home and workplace, he can frequently be found reflecting on his childhood traumas in the psychiatrist's office. One day, Oscar returns home from work to find an African woman from the museum lying in his bed. From what Oscar can gather the woman is suffering from a mysterious ailment, and has come to his bed to die. Instinctively, the couple makes love as Oscar struggles to maintain himself in a mysterious gray zone between repulsion and desire. Soon thereafter, the woman begins to experience a disturbing transformation."
* I read very good things about this film, or at least things that made me believe I would enjoy this film. I think it is supposed to be a horror film, but I will also say that the review I read admitted to some confusion about what was going on, while at the same time praising it's imagery.
The Devil Came on Horseback (2007) directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern
"In late 2006, former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle traveled to Darfur, Sudan with the African Union peacekeeping force - and found his life and perspective on the world forever changed. Devastated and racked with horror by the Janjaweed-driven genocide in the western region of the country (which has claimed 400,000 lives), Steidle set out to work against these atrocities, atrocities systematically denied and publicly buried by the corrupt Sudanese government. Despite his initial hesitancies, Steidle ultimately agreed to plunge headfirst into the conflict - and to work toward achieving social change not through violence but through peaceful, humanitarian efforts. His efforts carried him to a myriad of countries and multiple continents; throughout, Steidle took over 1,000 photographs to document the horrors, thus spreading awareness of this crisis to the remainder of the world and roundly defeating Sudanese governmental denials of the genocide."
* I attended a pre-screening of this film in March at the Arab Film Festival (that included a very heated debate in a post-screening discussion with Annie Sundberg.) It's really an amazing film that more people should see.
Talk to Me (2007) directed by Kasi Lemmons
"Talk to Me's Ralph Waldo 'Petey' Greene isn’t quite the household name that some of his contemporaries (such as Richard Pryor or Redd Foxx) are, but this smart drama about the Washington, DC, disc jockey is a fascinating film. At the film’s opening in the mid-1960s, Greene hosts a beloved radio show--at the prison where he makes his home. While visiting his incarcerated brother, Dewey Hughes hears Greene’s brash humor and honesty, but he brushes off Greene’s attempts at a job at the radio station where Hughes works. But Greene is soon released from prison, and he won’t forget his dreams of hosting his own radio show. He hounds the staff of a Washington R&B station, including Hughes and the station manager. When he finally gets a job, his show resonates with the people of the city and the changing times of the civil rights movement."
* I swear I meant to see this in the theater, but it came and went pretty quick.
We Are the Strange (2007) directed by M dot Strange
"Blue is a young girl navigating the streets of a terrifying, sinister fantasy world all alone. When she meets Emmm, a fellow lost soul, she joins him on a quest for some ice cream. Upon arriving, they realize the ice cream shop has been taken over by dark forces, and the whole city is teeming with evil. Bizarre monsters surround Blue and Emmm on all sides until Rain, a sadistic hero, arrives to rescue them and exterminate the source of the evil."
* I have to see this movie. I haven't seen anything that looked so wacked since I saw Cat Soup. Watch the trailer HERE. Here's the bio of the director, M dot: "Legally insane professional weirdo. One man evil animation studio. Like’s ramen and udon noodles, the Oakland A’s, coffee, and wearing mismatched sox. Says the word 'hella' like hella. Used to be a video game thug rapper wearing a Powerglove and touring public toilets. Made We are the Strange because grey aliens from the future programmed him to do so. Lives with a green screen and a bunch of rattling computers. Made over 70 live action and animated short films and one live action feature before We are the Strange. Has a bike. M dot Strange is from the future." I like him!
Lupin the 3rd: The Fuma Conspiracy (1987) directed by Masayuki Ozeki
"Goemon is getting married! Well, he was until his bride, Murasaki, was kidnapped by an evil organization of ninja: the Fuma Clan. Their ransom is the Shuujoh Vase, the key to a legacy of untold wealth that has been hidden for hundreds of years. And where there's treasure, there's master thief Lupin the Third! When word of Lupin's appearance reaches Inspector Zenigata, he comes out of retirement to put him behind bars once and for all! Can Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko rescue Murasaki, unearth the secrets of the treasure, and evade Old Man Zenigata as they try to foil the fiendish plot of the Fuma Clan?"
* I love Lupin, and despite the lack of Lupin with Goemon in the spotlight, this is one of the better Lupin features.
The Cinema of Peter Watkins
"Watkins, one of the British directors whose reputation sprang from the amateur film movement, quickly carved out a niche in docudrama and pseudodocumentaries. They all stage invented, fictional events as if they were real ones being captured by documentary crews. Sometimes the crews are merely hypothetical (what would happen if cameras recorded the French Commune?); othertimes the send up is contemporary and specific. However, unlike the mockumentaries in fashion today, pseudodocumentaries are not done to lampoon but to capture the uncapturable and, sometimes, to show up the conventions of media production to begin with." (Taken from Left Center Left.)
* I love the non-representational cover (unless I am missing something.) Includes Punishment Park, Edvard Munch, The Gladiators, The War Game and Cullodon. Where is Privilege? I think Peter Watkins is something of a genius. Some don't.
Twin Peaks - The Definitive Gold Box Edition
* So so close to buying this. I obsessed over this show with the best of them. And while I found the second season disappointing, the entire package is nothing short of amazing. I bought the first season when it first came out on DVD, and got a Hong Kong (or maybe it was a bootleg) of the pilot that was floating around for a while. I've watched the entire thing through twice since then. I passed on the second season when it came out, but this is hard to resist. This 10 DVD set includes the pilot, the first and second season, the international version (whatever that is), and a boatload of extra crap. All for a cool $65. If by some chance I haven't bought it by Christmas, I will ask Santa for it. Look how pretty it is! It's gold!