"Give director Paul Greengrass a completely fictional scenario into which he can weave multiple levels of tension and anxiety — for example, Jason Bourne guiding a witness targeted for assassination through crowded Waterloo Station — and he delivers like few action directors in Hollywood nowadays," writes Mike D'Angelo in Las Vegas Weekly. "Unfortunately, Greengrass also has a penchant for torn-from-the-headlines political agitprop, which compels him to squander his talent on painstaking but pointless re-creations of real-life events. United 93 was half of an inspired movie — the half set on the ground among frantic air traffic controllers, not the half on the flight itself — but his latest effort, Green Zone, set in Iraq in 2003, does little more than wag its finger at the Bush administration for lying to us about Saddam Hussein's nonexistent WMD program. It's an alleged action flick in which the tsk tsks register much louder than the boom booms."
"From Bloody Sunday through the second and third Bourne movies (which turned [Matt] Damon into a minimalist movie star), this director has honed his skill at balancing chaos with clarity," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Greengrass (decisively aided by the stroboscopic vision of his cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd, who also shot The Hurt Locker) choreographs foot chases and gun battles that unfold with the velocity, complexity and precision of a Bach fugue played on overdrive." At the same time, Greengrass and screenwriter Brian Helgeland "have clearly studied journalistic accounts of the early days of the war, citing Rajiv Chandrasekaran's vivid Imperial Life in the Emerald City as a particular inspiration, and while the picture they paint of infighting among the Americans and growing factionalism among the Iraqis may not be literally accurate in every particular, it has the rough authority of novelistic truth."
J Hoberman in the Voice: "Green Zone, which could have more accurately been titled Told You So, Jerk-Off!, does gain some coincidental topicality for opening just days after the Iraqi elections and the release of Karl Rove's new book, Courage and Consequence, even if the zeitgeist has moved on, with the unwinnable war now in Afghanistan and the Bush disaster barely a memory. Liberals, take such solace as you can."
More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Richard Corliss (Time), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), David Edelstein (New York), Ambrose Heron, Anthony Lane (New Yorker), Shawn Levy (Oregonian), Kate Muir (London Times), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Nicolas Rapold (L), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), Dana Stevens (Slate), Scott Tobias (AV Club), Ben Walters (Time Out London), Armond White (New York Press) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). See, too, last week's roundup.
Interviews with Greengrass: Steve Rose (Guardian) and Ben Walters (Time Out London). Drew McWeeney talks with Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan for Hitfix. Viewing: James Rocchi talks with Greengrass, Damon and Kinear for MSN Movies. Listening: Amy Ryan's a guest on Fresh Air. For New York's Logan Hill, Greengrass "Deconstructs a Pivotal Action Scene."
"Between the past few years' worth of Iraq War docs and on-the-ground TV reports, it's easy to collectively believe that we definitively understand the monotonous yet dangerous daily existence of US soldiers in the Middle East," writes Aaron Hillis, reviewing Severe Clear for the Voice. "Kristian Fraga [and Mike Scotti]'s unexpectedly captivating first-person perspective of Operation Iraqi Freedom circa 2003 proves we don't." More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Nicolas Rapold (TONY), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and Ryan Vlastelica (L).
"The last monster to run wild through Bong Joon-ho's imagination was an enormous creature from the watery deep," writes Manohla Dargis in the NYT. "A different menace storms through Mother, the fourth feature from this sensationally talented South Korean filmmaker, though she too seems to spring from unfathomable depths. Unlike the beast in The Host — a catastrophic byproduct of the American military — the monster in Mother doesn't come with much of a backstory, which suggests that she is a primal force, in other words, a natural."
"Mother is a genre exercise that honors convention, yet weaves around it whenever possible," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "Bong carefully turns Mother into a classic gumshoe tale, with red herrings, interrogations, and moments of sublime suspense.... But the movie is also a superior character sketch, edging us deeper into the heroine's fears and regrets."
More from Sam Adams, J Hoberman (Voice), Anthony Lane (New Yorker), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Lisa Rosman (IFC), Nick Schager, Benjamin Sutton (L), Keith Uhlich (TONY) and Armond White (NYP). Earlier: Daniel Kasman and David Phelps from Cannes and a reviews roundup from Toronto and NYFF. Interviews with Bong: Seth Abramovitch (Movieline), Livia Bloom (Filmmaker), Hye Jean Chung (Filmjourney), Matt Mazur (PopMatters), Stephen Saito (IFC) and Damon Smith (video, Reverse Shot). Viewing: Bong talks us through a scene for the NYT.
In Children of Invention, director Tze Chun captures a harrowing flash point in the lives of an illegal immigrant and her two children when they move into an unfinished condo after being evicted from their home," writes Ed Gonzalez in Slant. "Similarities to Treeless Mountain abound, but while Chun's vision isn't as viscerally arresting as So Yong Kim's, his sense of social observation is less cloying and cuts deeper."
More from Manohla Dargis (NYT), Kevin B Lee (TONY), Henry Stewart (L) and Ella Taylor (Voice). At Truly Free Film, producer Mynette Louie and Tze Chun spell out their "Top 10 (alright, 11) Reasons Why We Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers."
Speaking of So Yong Kim, her partner Bradley Rust Gray's The Exploding Girl is back in New York and Karina Longworth, writing in the Voice, finds it "narratively slight, but aesthetically and psychologically complex." More from Marcy Dermansky, Noel Murray (AV Club), Lisa Rosman (IFC), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Andrew Schenker (L) and the NYT's AO Scott, who notes that Ivy, played by Zoe Kazan, is "present in virtually every frame" in this "sweet and tentative new film.... Kazan, who has been popping up all over the place in memorable small roles — she was one of Meryl Streep's kids in It's Complicated, an aspiring writer in Me and Orson Welles and Leonardo DiCaprio's office fling in Revolutionary Road — is careful not to give away too much of Ivy's inner life... Gray's achievement — and Ms Kazan's, too — is to make you care enough about Ivy to be curious about her. But The Exploding Girl can also make you feel bad about wishing that she were just a little more interesting."
Interviews with Kazan: David Fear (Time Out New York), Aaron Hillis (IFC) and Eric Kohn (NYP). Viewing: Reverse Shot's Eric Hynes takes a walk with Gray and Kazan.
"A putatively humanistic film that succeeds more indelibly as a mythic image-poem, Kornél Mundruczó's Delta is, much like the career-capping experiments that form Gus Van Sant's bewitching Death Trilogy, both a starry-eyed paean to and a ham-fisted mangling of the inimitable aesthetics of fellow Hungarian countryman (and occasional Mundruczó co-producer) Béla Tarr," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant. More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT) and David Fear (TONY). James van Maanen talks with screenwriter Yvette Biró.
"White on Rice is an Asian-American domestic dramedy that's determined to be as culture-neutral as possible," writes Mike Hale in the NYT. "To that end the director, Dave Boyle, who wrote the screenplay with Joel Clark, avoids the genre's most common markers: the obsession with food, the meddling grandparents, the no-future family business. Unfortunately, what's left is bland and only occasionally funny." More from Aaron Hillis (TONY) and Chuck Wilson (Voice).
"The last 10 to 15 minutes of Remember Me turn on such a drastic miscalculation that audiences will scarcely be able to talk about anything else," writes Scott Tobias at the AV Club. "That's too bad, because before it's freighted with more significance than its flimsy architecture can possibly withstand, this romantic melodrama strives for something nearly as ambitious: It attempts to turn Twilight's Robert Pattinson into the millennial James Dean." More from Simon Abrams (Slant), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Lisa Rosman (IFC), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) and Keith Uhlich (TONY).
"First-time scripter Glenn Taranto was inspired to write Stolen after reading an article about the real-life, unsolved 'Boy in the Box' murder case of 1957," notes Melissa Anderson in the Voice. "It's uncertain whether or not Taranto and debuting helmer Anders Anderson looked at the Law & Order: SVU and Cold Case episodes that also used the crime as a plot thread; the sub-televisual incompetence of their film suggests not." More from Stephen Holden (NYT), Kevin B Lee (TONY), Noel Murray (AV Club), Mark Peikert (NYP), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and James van Maanen. Interviews with Jon Hamm: Aaron Hillis (IFC) and Mina Hochberg (Vulture).
"Nobody falls for the 'wedding that heals society' plot harder than I," writes Laura Boyles in the Independent Weekly, "but once uttered, some bad words cannot be taken back. Such is the case with Our Family Wedding, a rebooted Guess Who's Coming to Dinner that amounts to a racist rom-com for a supposedly postracial society." More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Aaron Hillis (Voice), Nathan Rabin (AV Club), Nick Schager (TONY) and Andrew Schenker (Slant).
"The most common criticism She's Out of My League will endure is that it's a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy," writes Nick McCarthy in L Magazine. "And, in a way, that's accurate. For a modestly budgeted, R-rated 'date movie' — as the studio heads would label it — it is very typical. It's typically insolent, misogynistic, and homophobic." More from Matthew Connolly (Slant), Alonso Duralde (Queer Sighted), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Mike Hale (NYT), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Megan Seling (Stranger) and Scott Tobias (AV Club).
"I implore any prospective or fledgling screenwriters out there to see the new documentary Tales from the Script," writes Christopher Campbell at Cinematical. "And afterward, if you still feel like attempting to break into that highly competitive and rarely rewarding side of the movie business, then it's possible this is indeed the right dream and career for you. As Taxi Driver and Raging Bull scribe Paul Schrader says in the film, 'if you can be happy doing anything else, do that.'" More from Jeannette Catsoulis (NYT), Ernest Hardy (Voice), Keith Uhlich (TONY), James van Maanen and Bill Weber (Slant).
Raya Martin's Independencia screens at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley tonight and at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco on Sunday. Johnny Ray Huston in the Bay Guardian: "If the forest domain and its invocation as a place of temporary respite and sensuality calls the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul to mind, Martin is the first director who doesn't come up entirely wanting in comparison to Apichatpong. This is partly because his use of these elements is distinct, and also because his recreation of early cinema techniques isn't mere stylistic whimsy but a alluring, barbed form of commentary, a prodigious act of imagination in zones of erased or abandoned memory."
Localized roundups: Austin Chronicle, the Bay Guardian again, JR Jones (Chicago Reader) and LA Weekly.
IN THE UK
"Filmmakers have highlighted the link between sex and music before," writes Wendy Ide in the Times, "but few have made such a persuasive argument as the director Bernard Rose that sex is a fundamental foundation of a piece of music, that passion, pain and exquisite erotic agonies seep into the spaces between the notes. The piece is Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata and the film, of the same name, is adapted from a novella by Leo Tolstoy which itself was inspired by Beethoven's turbulent duet for violin and piano. Rose leaves no doubts about what was in the composer's mind when he penned the piece." More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Dave Calhoun (Time Out London), Anthony Quinn (Independent) and Tim Robey (Telegraph).
"Working with a minuscule budget and restless, hand-held, close-up camerawork, Swedish film-maker Jesper Ganslandt has created an intimate psychological study of someone in a kind of personal hell." 4 out of 5 stars for The Ape from the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.
"In Europe, the Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been a mini-Avatar," writes Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times. "Everyone save the Pope has seen it, taking a thrill ride on the first instalment of a planned trilogy based on Stieg Larsson's bestselling Millennium novels: criminological grand guignol all about rapist-killers and their over-exercised pursuers." For the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, this is a "must for the existing fanbase: others might have preferred it in two or three TV episodes." More from Tom Huddleston (Time Out London), Wendy Ide (Times), Anthony Quinn (Independent) and Sukhdev Sandhu (Telegraph). John Crace presents a Stieg Larsson primer in the Guardian.
"A leader of Japanese cinema's 1990s New Wave, Hitoshi Yazaki dropped off the radar for more than a decade, returning in 2006 with Strawberry Shortcakes, a widely praised drama about four lonely women in search of, not just a partner, but reasons for living." Mark Schilling introduces an interview to accompany his 4-out-of-5-star review in the Japan Times: "In his new film, Sweet Little Lies, the heroine has found her partner — but is still looking for fulfillment."
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