28 Weeks Later (2007) directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
"Six months has passed since the Rage virus caused British residents to indiscriminately murder and destroy everything in their paths, and now the U.S. military has declared victory in the war against the rapidly spreading infection. As the reconstruction process gets underway and the first wave of refugees return to British shores, a family separated by the devastation is happily reunited. The joy of being reunited as repopulation efforts get underway in London is short-lived, however, when an innocent bid to reconnect with the past sets into motion a tragic series of events. Now, just as society struggles to sort through the rubble and rebuild London from the ground up, the virus that nearly destroyed a nation strikes back with a vengeance." An excellent companion film to 28 Days Later despite the different and less well-known director. What it lacks in social commentary, it easily makes up for with some truly scary scenes with zombies, uh, I mean infected people, who are fast and all business.
Black Sheep (2006) directed by Jonathan King
"A genetic engineering experiment gone horribly awry turns a large flock of docile sheep into unrelenting killing machines in this rural horror comedy directed by Jonathan King and featuring special effects designed by Weta Workshop. When the death of his father and a stress-induced fear of sheep pushes him toward the edge of a nervous breakdown, skilled farmer Henry Oldfield leaves the family farm behind in a desperate bid to achieve inner peace. Upon returning to the farm following a 15-year absence, Henry discovers that his brother Angus has been performing genetic experiments on the sheep. Unfortunately for both the brothers and the rest of the humble farmers who make their living off of the land, these experiments have produced a strain of sheep that crave human flesh and will stop at nothing to satisfy their diabolical hunger." If you are aware that you are going to see a film about killer sheep, you get exactly what you would expect. This film played as a midnight movie at MSPIFF, and I thought it was a hoot.
12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
"It's the sixteenth anniversary of the revolt that removed Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from power in Romania, and Jderescu is the host of a televised public affairs show who wants to do a special program on the revolution. Jderescu's idea is to bring on a handful of ordinary citizens to discuss their role in Ceausescu's overthrow and how their lives have changed since Communist rule was swept from Romania. However, Jderescu can only round up two guests for his broadcast -- elderly Piscoci, who's more interested in playing Santa Claus for the neighborhood kids than talking politics, and Manescu, a schoolteacher nursing a brutal hangover. As Jderescu tries to lead a serious discussion of how Romania has changed since Ceausescu was driven from power, the conversation wanders off on a tangent about where the revolution actually took place, and the waters become even more muddied when Jderescu opens up the phone lines for questions from viewers, most of whom have their own distinct (and strongly conflicting) memories of the Revolution . . . and one of which has a bone to pick with Manescu over some drunken insults he hurled the night before." A brilliant film from Romainia that was upstaged by Mr. Lazarascu.
Mala Noche Criterion (1985) directed by Gus Van Sant
"With its low budget and lush black-and-white imagery, Gus Van Sant's debut feature Mala Noche heralded an idiosyncratic, provocative new voice in American independent film. Set in Van Sant's hometown of Portland, Oregon, the film evokes a world of transient workers, dead-end day-shifters, and bars and seedy apartments bathed in a profound nighttime, as it follows a romantic deadbeat with a wayward crush on a handsome Mexican immigrant. Mala Noche was an important prelude to the New Queer Cinema of the nineties and is a fascinating time capsule from a time and place that continues to haunt its director's work." It is really exciting when Criterion decides to do a film like this. It was Van Sant's first film in a very interesting and multi-faceted career. Criterion offers a great way to see or revisit this film: new transfer and new interview with Gus Van Sant.
Man Push Cart (2005) directed by Ramin Bahrani
"A former Pakistani rock star attempts to adjust to life in New York City while simultaneously making friends and selling coffee from a push cart on the streets of Manhattan in Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani poignant, character-driven drama. By day Ahmad tends to hurried Manhattan-ites by keeping their bellies full and ensuring that they are adequately caffeinated, and by night he supplements his income by selling bootleg porn DVDs. Though Ahmad hopes to one day raise enough money to purchase a place of his own and reunite with his estranged son, times are tough in the city and the hard-working immigrant soon strikes up a tentative friendship with fellow countryman Mohammed; a generous but sometimes condescending soul who readily takes the fledgling New Yorker under his knowing wing while offering additional work decorating his apartment. Spanish immigrant Noemi works at a newsstand near Ahmad's cart, and also finds herself warming to the haunted former rock-star's timid ways. As Ahmad, Mohammed, and Noemi gradually begin to socialize together, a tragedy in Ahmad's past soon prompts the struggling New York newcomer to question the true nature of his current relationships." An understated film with an indie heart of gold.
Shinobi No Mono (1962) directed by Satsuo Yamamoto
"As nefarious warlord Oda Nobunga continues his quest to conquer all of Japan, a powerful young ninja becomes ensnared in a plot to kill the powerful ruler in this period adventure that helped to launch the ninja craze when originally released back in 1962. Ishikawa Goemon (Ichikawa Raizo) has lost his honor, and now in order to reclaim it he must do away with the most feared man in all of Japan. But the task won't be an easy one, because death lurks around every corner as enemy ninja gangs fast close in. In order to ensure the authenticity of their ambitious martial arts feature, the producers of Shinobi No Mono enlisted the so-called 'last living ninja' as an expert consultant." Animeigo is turning out to be the DVD distributor to watch for great Asian films both old and new. This is a genre classic and a must see for fans.