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LAND OF THE DEAD (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:40pm

Director George A. Romero created our modern image of the zombie as the flesh-eating walking undead. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD are horror classics and DAY OF THE DEAD is very underrated. LAND OF THE DEAD is the beginning in a new cycle of Romero zombie films. For the four films it’s on par with DAY.

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where zombies roam the streets of cities while humans hole themselves up in a small community surrounded by water. Rich people live in a huge apartment complex called Fiddler’s Green while the poor people scrounge the abandoned cities for food and luxuries.

Riley (Simon Baker, THE RING TWO) has created the Dead Reckoning, a mobile fortress that allows the humans to venture out into zombie-infested areas. However, Riley wants to leave the city behind, because he sees how the decks are loaded and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it anymore. Cholo (John Leguizamo, MOULIN ROUGE), on the other hand, believes that if he does enough favors for the Fiddler’s Green boss Kaufman (Dennis Hopper, EASY RIDER) that he’ll be able to buy his way into the luxurious high-rise.

Blogs

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:30pm

Ridley Scott’s (GLADIATOR) KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is a solidly made historical epic that has a resonance for the modern world. Set in the 1100s, the film deals with an issue that still plagues the world today — ownership of Jerusalem.

In the film, the Christians rule the city and the leper king, Baldwin (Edward Norton, FIGHT CLUB), has carved a peace with the Muslim king Saladin (Ghassan Massoud, in film debut). The film begins with Baron Godfrey (Liam Neeson, BATMAN BEGINS) seeking out his bastard son Balian (Orlando Bloom, ELIZABETHTOWN) to join him in Jerusalem. Balian has just lost his child, which spurred his wife to commit suicide. He is reluctant to go with his estranged father at first, but hopes for spiritual redemption for himself and his wife in the Holy Land.

Blogs

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:17pm

First off, I have read the famed book that inspired this film and I found it disappointing. The film does capture the silly anarchy of the book fairly well, but it still wasn’t all that funny.

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman, LOVE ACTUALLY) wakes up one morning to discover that his house has been scheduled for destruction to make way for a throughway and he didn’t know it. But this is the least of his worries, because his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def, BROWN SUGAR), who is really an alien, informs him that the Earth has been scheduled for destruction to make way for an intergalactic throughway. So Ford and Martin hitch a ride on the demolition crew’s spaceship and thus starts their crazy adventures throughout the galaxy.

Blogs

HIGH TENSION (2005) (**1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 4:05pm

This French horror film has already become somewhat of a cult classic. Released in Europe in 2003, the gory film recently made the top 50 horror films list conducted by TOTAL FILM magazine.

Marie (Cécile De France, 2004's AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS) is traveling with her friend Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco, THE FIFTH ELEMENT) to Alex's parent's house in the country. For a short film, the beginning seems to be padded a bit with a lame scene in a cornfield. As the girls settle in at the farmhouse, we are introduced to the killer (Philippe Nahon, IRREVERSIBLE), who has a fetish for decapitated heads. When the killer arrives at the house, he butchers Alex's family one by one. It's extremely bloody and violent. Marie desperately tries to avoid the killer and save Alex.

Blogs

DOWNFALL (2004) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:55pm

This film was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign language film for 2004. It’s the first German film to tackle the topic of the Nazis, chronicling the last days of the Third Reich as a paranoid Adolf Hitler desperately clung to the hope of victory and his sanity.

The film was controversial and a huge box office success in Germany. It was controversial because it attempts to present Hitler as an evil human not just a caricatured monster. Those who have discovered the film know how good it is. On the invaluable movie website IMDB.com, readers currently rank this film as the 56th best film of all time.

Bruno Ganz (WINGS OF DESIRE) is magnificent as the Fuhrer, who is kind and respectful to his loyal servants, but enraged with irrational hatred, racism and anger. Our point of view for the film is Hilter’s secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), who in real life has written a book about her experiences and participated in a documentary called BLIND SPOT right before her death. She claims that she knew nothing of the atrocities the Nazis carried out, but many feel that she must have known something and could not bring herself to admit it.

Blogs

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) (***)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:46pm

All the word about this film centered on the strange performance of Johnny Depp. I liked it and therefore I liked the film. It’s not nearly as good as the original, but it is a thoroughly entertaining re-envisioning of the classic tale.

Charlie (Freddie Highmore, FINDING NEVERLAND) is a good kid (maybe a bit too good). He is part of a loving family. They are poor, but his parents (Helena Bonham Carter, FIGHT CLUB, & Noah Taylor, SHINE) try their best. His Grandpa Joe (David Kelly, WAKING NED DEVINE) has a love for the Wonka Chocolate factory just as much as Charlie does and they get very excited when its announced that Willy Wonka (Depp) will give out five golden tickets allowing five lucky kids and one guardian each to visit the wondrous factory.

Blogs

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) (****)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 3:35pm

David Cronenberg is best known for his horror films like THE FLY and VIDEODROME. Of late he has been moving into more dramatic territory with films like SPIDER. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is his most mainstream film and probably his best film thus far.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen, LORD OF THE RINGS) is a family man who owns a diner in a small Mid-Western town. One day, gun-totting bad guys come to the diner looking to rob it. We already know they’re cold-blooded killers. Soon enough Tom has disarmed and killed the men, becoming a reluctant hero to his town. He is also a hero to his loving wife Edie (Maria Bello, THE COOLER) and his son Jack (Ashton Holmes, TV’s ONE LIFE TO LIVE), who is picked on by the jocks at school. The media attention given to Tom then brings new bad men to town. Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris, APOLLO 13) is a gangster from Philly who believes Tom is not the person he says he is.

Blogs

THE WICKER MAN (1973) (***1/2)

By Rick DeMott | Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 12:54pm

I saw this film on the big screen in college and hated it. It probably had something to do with that fact that I was required to go see it outside of class, which prompted such disdain. It's also a bit dated, which takes some getting use to.

Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward, BECKET) is sent a letter that a girl has gone missing on a private island. When he goes to investigate, the townsfolk at first deny her existence. But Sgt. Howie quickly discovers proof that she not only existed, but may have been murdered. Disturbing the extremely repressed Christian detective more is that the island is inhabited by pagans, who worship sun and orchard gods, engage in public sex and erect monuments to the penis.

Blogs

Yard sale, T'giving

NIK & NANCY are having a garage sale (surprise, surprise!!!!) . . . Come see
what new treasures will be unearthed in our basement . . .Something for
everyone . . . from an opera Supernumery Breast Plate to vintage clothing
and household gadgets (a couple we are still trying to guess what they are).

WEATHER PERMITTING!!!!!! CANCELED IN CASE OF BAD WEATHER

2066 30th Avenue (between Pacheco & Quintara)

If you don't need anything just come by and say hello . . .

AND don't forget Thanksgiving Dinner here! -- bring something to eat or
drink to share and non perishable food for the food bank barrel!!!

Blogs

PES Screening & Reception

PLEASE NOTE!!!!

If you receive this and ARE NOT interested in animation PLEASE NO NOT come
to the party!!!! This is an ASIFA event and everyone is welcome... but if
you just want to come to a party at our house - wait until Thanksgiving
Day!!! Thanks,
Nik and Nancy

Thursday, November 3 8:15 PM

San Francisco State's Coppola Auditorium, Fine Arts 101 Free and Public
Invited

to a special

SCREENING OF ANIMATION BY

PES,

ONE OF NEW YORK'S HOTTEST ANIMATION DIRECTORS

Our reception and screening for PES will include his award winning ROOF SEX
plus several amazing stop-motion commercials (and we do mean amazing!!!).
His "Coinstar Shoe" ad just won Best Animated commercial at Ottawa. You can
see lots of work by PES at eatPES.com, but the excitement will be greater on
a big screen at SF state with a receptive audience.

Blogs

THE COURT JESTER (1956) (****)

This Danny Kaye swashbuckler spoof is driven by a complicated, yet ingenious, plot, highlighted by stellar dialogue.

King Roderick I (Cecil Parker, SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON) has usurped the throne of England from the rightful heir, an infant boy with the family birthmark of a purple pimpernel on his bottom. Hubert Hawkins (Kaye, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY) is part of the rebels trying to the get the true heir on the thrown. Disguised as the new court jester Giacomo, he infiltrates the palace to get the key to the secret passage into the castle.

Along the way he has fallen in love with the female fighter Maid Jean (Glynis Johns, MARY POPPINS), who is kidnapped as a wench for the king, who is arranging an unwanted marriage for his daughter Gwendolyn (Angela Lansbury, TV’s MURDER, SHE WROTE), who threatens to kill herself along with her witchcraft welding maid Griselda (Mildred Natwick, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON), who ends up bewitching Hubert, who is mistaken by conniving Sir Ravenhurst (Basil Rathbone, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD) as the real Giacomo, an assassin sent to kill the King so Ravenhurst can take the thrown. Woo, take a moment to catch your breath.

Blogs

BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) (****)

Like THE GODFATHER, BOOGIE NIGHTS brings a story of family into a sleazy world, but this time it’s the porn industry and not gangsters.

The most simple plot explanation is that the film follows the rise, fall and redemption of porn star Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg, THE ITALIAN JOB). His real name is Eddie Adams and he comes from a family were his mother is verbally abusive. Rumors abound at the nightclub where he works that he has huge talent in his pants. Porn director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds, DELIVERANCE) takes Eddie under his wing and turns him into Dirk. If Jack is Dirk’s mentor/father-figure than veteran porn star Amber Waves (Julianne Moore, FAR FROM HEAVEN) is his surrogate-mother/lover.

Blogs

KWIK STOP (2002) (***1/2)

This film has been on my list to see ever since it received such praise from Roger Ebert, who programmed it at his Overlooked Film Festival. It’s a wonderfully smart film filled with surprises throughout.

Didi (Lara Phillips, ROAD TO PERDITION) meets Mike aka Lucky (Michael Gilio, DON KING: ONLY IN AMERICA) at the Kwik Stop convenience store where she spots him shoplifting. She threatens to turn him in unless he gives her a ride home before he heads off to Los Angeles to start an acting career. Along the way, Didi convinces Mike to take her to LA with him.

At first you think, the film will be a quirky romantic comedy/ road movie, but the film is too good to fall into a simple label. Other key characters include the sad alcoholic Emil (Rich Komenich, MR. 3000) and the heartbroken waitress Ruthie (Karin Anglin, DIRTY WORK).

Blogs

THE INTERPRETER (2005) (***)

Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman, THE HOURS) is an interpreter for the UN. One night she overhears a plot to assassinate a dictator named Zuwanie (Earl Cameron, THUNDERBALL), who will be visiting the UN for a speech. After she reports the incident, secret service agents Tobin Keller (Sean Penn, MYSTIC RIVER) and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH) are assigned to the case. At first, Keller doesn’t believe Broome, because it seems kind of fishy that someone overhears an assassination plot in a language that she happens to know that most people in American couldn’t even understand a word of.

The film keeps the suspense level high throughout and the film is filled with strong central characters. The underlying message isn’t revolutionary, but it adds a topical intelligence to the film that has been lacking from thrillers since the 1970s.

Blogs

FEVER PITCH (2005) (***1/2)

Based on a Nick Hornby book, this romantic comedy was directed by the Farrelly Brothers, who brought us THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and SHALLOW HAL. The film is far more typical Hornby than Farrelly.

Ben (Jimmy Fallon, 2004’s TAXI) is a school teacher who meets Lindsey (Drew Barrymore, EVER AFTER) while he is taking his students on a field trip to where she works. She’s not really gung ho about the frumpish teacher at first but he wins her over with his charm and sweetness. Then he drops the big “relationship killer” on her. He’s a Red Sox fanatic, who has been religiously following the team since he was seven and has inherited season tickets from his uncle.

The film truly understands the nature of obsessing on one pastime and how others react to that passion. The story makes Ben an over-the-top fan, but you believe it 100%. I know people like Ben and I understand the passion one can develop on one thing. I loved the scene when Ben takes Lindsey to her first game. He knows all the people around him. They related the losing history of the team with a sad reverence. It’s their shared misery. The film gets it right.

Blogs

3-IRON (2005) (***1/2)

From Ki-duk Kim, the director of SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER… AND SPRING, comes this haunting romance that plays like a silent film. It contains imagery that I will never forget. Or more accurately, never want to.

Tae-suk (Hyun-kyoon Lee) is a college grad who has disappeared into a simple existence of taping menus to doors and then breaking into the houses that don’t remove the menus when he returns later in the day. He’s not a criminal; he just needs a place to stay. He washes the clothes of the people who live there and often fixes or plays a trick with an item in the house. For instance, he changes a scale in one house to read weights much lower than they are.

One day he enters a mansion where a beaten woman named Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon Lee) is quietly hiding. Tae-suk doesn’t notice she’s there for quite some time as she watches him. Then her businessman husband Min-gyu (Hyuk-ho Kwon) comes home and is abusive to Sun-hwa again. Eventually, Tae-suk and Sun-hwa run away together having never spoken a single word to each other.

Blogs

ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) (***1/2)

This film is definitely the most unique of the James Bond films. It was the first non-Sean Connery Bond film. Bond actually has a serious relationship in the film. For the most part the film plays the material straight. And the ending is quite unexpectedly sad.

George Lazenby (THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE) plays James Bond and after a rough outing at the start of the film, he gets to utter the line, “This never happened to the other fella,” which has spurred fans to assume that James Bond is more of a persona that various spies don over the years. However, this reading of the line discounts his interaction with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell, THE HAUNTING), but I digress.

The film starts with Bond following the daughter of a crime boss named Contessa “Tracy” Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg, TV’s THE AVENGERS), whose attempt at killing herself is thwarted by 007. Later, Tracy’s father Marc Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti, 1977’s THE PSYCHIC) offers Bond one million pounds to marry Tracy, but the secret agent isn’t keen on the money, but offers to romance the girl for information leading to his archrival Blofeld (Telly Savalas, TV’s KOJAK), who he tracks to a remote hideaway disguising itself as a research center studying allergies.

Blogs

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) (****)

As one of the most controversial films of all time, Martin Scorsese’s picture is a provocative study of the struggle between divinity and human nature within all of us.

In the film, Jesus (Willem Dafoe, THE ENGLISH PATIENT) is a carpenter, working on crosses, when he begins to hear the voice of God calling him. At first he is reluctant to believe that he is the messiah. His friend Judas (Harvey Keitel, THE PIANO) is part of a revolutionary movement against the Romans and when Jesus starts preaching peace to all, he is in conflict with his friend.

The film chronicles the journey Jesus takes in preaching and trying to revolutionize the world. The film has the characters debate many theological issues. The portrayal of Jesus here is more human than anywhere else. The film really tackles the concept of him being divine and human at the same time. The picture is also practical about how people can misinterpret religious teachings to fit their own agenda.

Blogs

KING OF NEW YORK (1990) (**)

This violent gangster/ Robin Hood story seems to have a point, but doesn’t want to make it clear to the audience. There’s nothing wrong with a film not wanting to be obvious, but this film is just thin.

Frank White (Christopher Walken, THE DEER HUNTER) is a drug kingpin who has just been released from prison. Prison seems to have changed him in various ways (which the film never makes clear). He sets out to take over all the crime operations in New York City and use the money to create a state-of-the-art hospital in a poor section of town. Good premise for a film, but this film doesn’t make it plausible.

Jimmy Jump (Laurence Fishburne, BOYZ ‘N THE HOOD) is White’s top hitman, who seems to have watched a few too many John Woo films with his two pistol killing technique. Besides every other crime boss (representing all the races) in town, the cops are gunning for White as well. They hate the fact that he’s a drug-dealing killer who runs around town like a sainted socialite. Dennis Gilley (David Caruso, TV’s CSI: MIAMI) creates his own vigilante campaign against White along with his good friend and fellow cop Thomas Flanigan (Wesley Snipes, BLADE). Veteran cop Roy Bishop (Victor Argo, GHOST DOG), who is hiding an inner turmoil, desperately wants to hold onto the right way of doing things.

Blogs

THE VANISHING (1993) (**)

If you have not seen the original French version of this film then you might actually enjoy his remake. However, this film is a shining example of the bad Hollywood remake. It takes the original film’s premise removes the character moments, crams in a false love story and tacks on a happy ending.

The original was a character-based thriller — the remake is a serial killer cliché. The film begins with a brief introduction to Barney Cousins (Jeff Bridges, THE BIG LEBOWSKI), a frumpish science teacher who is meticulously planning a kidnapping and possible murder. Then we meet Jeff Harriman (Kiefer Sutherland, LOST BOYS) and Diane Shaver (Sandra Bullock, SPEED) as they are on the road on vacation.

Blogs

HOMBRE (1967) (***)

Based on an Elmore Leonard novel and directed by Martin Ritt (NORMA RAE), HOMBRE is the typical kind of Western of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Genre films were safe arenas to tackle political and social issues of the day without being directly obvious with the message.

Simply put the film is a stagecoach hold-up combined with a siege tale. John Russell (Paul Newman, THE STING) is a white man who was raised by Indians. He’s soft-spoken, but quick to use violence. He’s cold and distant. He doesn’t get involved in other people’s business, putting himself first. His dual ethnicity gives him an interesting perspective. He inherits a boarding house and decides to sell it. This puts its manager Jessie (Diane Cilento, THE WICKER MAN) out of work. This is the first bit of tension that is attached to the stagecoach ride.

Blogs

HENRY & JUNE (1990) (***)

For film trivia fans this film was the first film to receive an NC-17 rating. Based on a book by Anaïs Nin, the film chronicles Nin’s relationships with writer Henry Miller and his wife June.

Nin is played by Maria de Medeiros (PULP FICTION) with Miller played by Fred Ward (SHORT CUTS) and Uma Thurman (KILL BILL) playing June. Nin is married to a slightly prudish banker named Hugo Guiler (Richard E. Grant, WITHNAIL & I), who she loves but isn’t excited about. When Miller comes into her life, she is sexually as well as artistically awakened. Miller’s passion for June is his muse for writing TROPIC OF CANCER and Nin soon becomes infatuated with her as well. June is sexy and mysterious, which makes her very intriguing.

Blogs

THE VANISHING (1988) (****)

French filmmaker George Sluizer’s character-based thriller is compelling on so many levels. The film opens up with an introduction to the young couple Rex Hofman (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia Wagter (Johanna ter Steege, IMMORTAL BELOVED). A common argument sets up a tension that drives the narrative and displays a fine eye for human nature. It's a petty fight that Rex will come to regret for the rest of his life.

Rex and Saskia come to a rest stop on their way to the country. Then we are quietly introduced to Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu), a shady character that we know is up to no good. Then Saskia vanishes and Rex becomes distraught. From here we flashback to Lemorne meticulously planning his crime, which is fascinating in its detail. Then we move ahead three years from the crime and witness Rex’s obsession with finding out what happened to Saskia. Lemorne taunts Rex with letters to meet with him. Rex is driven more by the nagging desire to know what happened than revenge.

Blogs

TIMELINE (2003) (*1/2)

From what I have read, based is the key word in the phrase “based on the Michael Crichton novel” when one describes this film.

The movie opens with an archeological dig where Prof. E.A. Johnston (Billy Connolly, MRS. BROWN) searches for clues about a famed battle between Lord Oliver of England (Michael Sheen, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN) and Lord Arnaut of France (Lambert Wilson, CATWOMAN). The dig is funded by a mega-corporation run by Robert Doniger (David Thewlis, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN). He has devised a teleportation machine that he hopes will put Fed Ex out of business. However, when the machine crosses wormholes, well, lets just say things end up in the past.

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