Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The first and least useful observation I have to make about Tam Cam: The Untold Story is that it suggests that Vietnam has much better fairy tales than the rest of the world. Here’s what I mean: the film, directed by Veronica NgΓ΄ Thanh VΓ’n from a script whipped together by a small army of […]

The promotional subtitle of First They Killed My Father (as well as the subtitle of the 2000 memoir from which it has been adapted) is A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, and it’s that last word, “remembers”, that ends up being the key to the whole film. With a screenplay adapted by Loung Ung and director […]

Having been shot in color and on media that doesn’t look like a 30-year-old VHS camcorder, telling something that resembles a story pretty much no matter how you look at it, and gliding in at a whimsical four hours and ten minutes, Norte, the End of History certainly earns its reputation as director Lav Diaz’s […]

Stories set in economic downturns aren’t all that rare, but ones made with the subtle insight of Ilo Ilo are as precious and unique as it gets. And that’s saying nothing about the film’s perceptive, harsh study of human interactions, but since I’ve started on this road, let me follow it for a bit. The […]

The production backstory of The Raid 2: Berandal (the subtitle, which translates as “tough guy”, “thug”, or something like that, is present only in ad material and not onscreen, at least not in the U.S. release) is surprisingly useful in hacking through what the thing is, and why it feels a little… but we’ll get […]

V/H/S/2 begins with a scene of a seedy private eye (Lawrence Michael Levine) recording two people about to have sex in a hotel room. This event does not inform anything in the rest of the movie; it doesn’t even introduce us to the character of the P.I., who’ll be more formally set-up in the very […]

There are some movies that beautiful and true chiefly in their purity: they are, and they pretend to be, one thing only. Such it is with The Raid: Redemption, an Indonesian action movie written and directed by a Welshman, Gareth Huw Evans. An action movie, and nothing at all but an action movie: insofar as […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/12 & 10/21 & 10/19World premiere: 18 May, 2012, Cannes Film Festival After much consideration, and carefully reviewing the exact circumstances of its making, I still have no idea what Mekong Hotel, the sixth, and at 61 minutes, the shortest, feature film made by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s, is “about”. Which is […]

Screens at CIFF: 10/12 & 10/14 & 10/16World premiere: 7 October, 2010, Indonesia Here is a place that I don’t think any of us expected the present superhero movie wave to to end up going: a transgender crime fighter in a shiny leather catsuit fighting a conservative Islamic presidential candidate who wants to turn Indonesia […]

Despite its gloriously fervid title, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (winner of the 2010 Palme d’Or, mainstay of last fall’s festival season, but some of us just didn’t get to be the cool kids last year) strikes me as being the most mainstream, I daresay normal, film yet made by Thailand’s reigning […]

The coming-of-age drama Sandcastle is busy enough, and dense enough, that it feels a great deal better than is the case, strictly speaking and trying to be objective about it. Truthfully, is is not a particularly adventurous film in a great many ways, fighting a sometimes losing battle with writer-director Boo Junfeng’s inexperience and fixation […]

The first thing I must confess is that I lost a losing battle to fatigue for the first (and so far only) time at this year’s fest to a movie that was clearly better than that; but many great films are also slow-moving to the point of lethargy when you’re not pulling all nighter’s one […]