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"House," "Fish Tank," "The Book of Eli"

The Auteurs Daily


"Delirious, deranged, gonzo or just gone, baby, gone - no single adjective or even a pileup does justice to House, a 1977 Japanese haunted-house freakout," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi, this energetic exemplar of pulp surrealism began surfacing in the United States last year, playing at events like the New York Asian Film Festival. Now, in advance of the Criterion DVD, which will be released later this year, it is receiving its first, must-see-now domestic theatrical run at the IFC Center in New York. A midnight movie in lysergic spirit and vibe, this was a film made for late-night screening and screaming."

"An uncanny prophecy of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 a decade later, this exhumed freaker conjoins New Agey schoolgirl farce and the cheesiest then-there-were-none haunted-house dynamic imaginable, while the painted backdrop skies suggest Teletubbies and the special effects run from solarized-video-absurd to cardboard-hilarious," writes Michael Atkinson in the Voice. "Self-aware enough at the time to drop a fat Sergio Leone reference, Obayashi is still making movies, and has evolved into an award-winning expert on warmhearted fables and mainstream pulp (he won at Berlin, too, for 1998's Sada). House, his first feature, isn't just not mainstream - it's a torrential, Troma-style goof (but without Troma's resources or consistency), prone to cannibalism-inflected dance numbers and abstracted passages that kaleidoscope together severed limbs and giant flowers."

More from Chuck Bowen (Slant), Benjamin Mercer (L), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York) and Matt Singer (IFC). Outcast Cinema runs Variety's original 1977 review. Criterion's Current talks with Janus Films' Brian Belovarac "about the rediscovery of a must-see mind-boggler, which Seattle Weekly has called 'an effects-saturated dreamscape... It's like Douglas Sirk on acid.'" See the Janus site, too, for further theatrical dates; House is rolling out across the nation through the summer.

Fish Tank

"Even after the advent of psychology, feminism, and the sexual revolution, female desire remains culturally discomfiting, a topic to be avoided or willfully mystified," writes Eric Hynes for indieWIRE. "Outside of hyper-hormonal slapstick, adolescent desire is just as taboo. Furthermore, female adolescent desire is so socially unsavory that even the dubiously chaste Twilight counts as a welcome corrective. Enter Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, a film so fearless, honest, and wise about emergent female sexuality that no grading curve is necessary. She approaches sex not as an aspect of politics but of experience, continuous with life's other impulses, bafflements, dangers, and joys."

"We find ourselves, in Fish Tank, in a world made familiar by the films of Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and other socially conscious anatomists of British misery," writes AO Scott in the NYT. "It's a place I'm usually (perhaps perversely) happy to visit, and to locate Ms Arnold's work in a recognizable tradition is not to slight her particular and considerable strengths as a filmmaker. Her first feature, Red Road, was a tour de force of psychological insight slightly undermined by a script that relied a bit too much on late reversals and surprises.... [Michael] Fassbender, who was the Irish militant Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen's Hunger and the suave British film critic in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, is quickly establishing himself as an actor of impressive range and skill."

More from Mark Asch (L), Richard Brody (New Yorker), Libby Edelson (Artforum), David Edelstein (New York), Bryant Frazer, Craig Kennedy, Noel Murray (AV Club), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Dana Stevens (Slate), Ella Taylor (Voice), Keith Uhlich (TONY), James van Maanen, Armond White (New York Press) and Lauren Wissot (Slant). Earlier: Reviews from Cannes.

For Filmmaker, Damon Smith talks with Arnold "about her faith in cinema, the simple act of observing everyday life, and why her New Year's resolution is to dance every day." More from Graham Fuller in the NYT and Peter Knegt in indieWIRE. Profiles of newcomer Katie Jarvis: Charlotte Cripps (Independent) and Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times). Interviews with Michael Fassbender: Kyle Buchanan (Movieline), David Fear (TONY), Aaron Hillis (IFC), Terry Keefe (The Hollywood Interview) and Lauren Wissot (Slant). Listening. Arnold and Fassbender are guests on the Leonard Lopate Show.

The Book of Eli

"Resurrection is The Book of Eli's game, from its tale of a post-apocalyptic society's reformation, to its hero emerging from the ashes of a nuclear holocaust, to its filmmakers, Albert and Allen Hughes, striving to resuscitate their careers with this, their first fictional feature since 2001's From Hell." Nick Schager in Slant: "Come on up for the rising, indeed, except that there's very little to lift one's spirits about this adrenalized Wild West-ish variant of The Road, typified as it is by a familiar ash-gray patina, striking but inert graphic-novel compositions and cinematographic flourishes, and kick-ass combat straight out of [insert recent action film title]. The only defining characteristic of the Hughes brothers' latest is, in fact, its equally enthusiastic R-rated violence and earnest piousness, a synthesis of modern Hollywood-videogame bloodlust and conservative heartland godliness that may succeed in pandering to opposite sides of the ideological-political spectrum but nonetheless comes off as a preachy Sunday school slog of a marriage."

"You wonder what [Denzel] Washington saw in it," writes the Telegraph's Tim Robey, "but then the same could be said of everything he's made lately with Tony Scott. Gary Oldman, who plays a small-town tyrant with an eye on Denzel's bestseller, does 'wearily authoritative baddy' as if pressing a switch. There's one highlight, unless I hallucinated it: a brief, joyful and utterly random cameo from houseproud Frances de la Tour. Frances de la Tour! As the artillery rolls up to blow her dwelling to smithereens, her line about just having put out the best china bumps the whole farrago up a star."

More from Todd Brown (Showcase), Richard Corliss (Time), Manohla Dargis (NYT), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Robert Horton (Herald), Jonathan Kiefer (Faster Times), Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle), Kim Morgan (IFC), Charles Mudede (Stranger), Michelle Orange (Movieline), Michael O'Sullivan (Washington Post), Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune), Nick Pinkerton (Voice), Andrew Pulver (Guardian), James Rocchi (MSN Movies), Mike Russell (Oregonian), Benjamin Strong (L), Dawn Taylor (Cinematical), Scott Tobias (AV Club), Keith Uhlich (TONY), Armond White (NYP) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon).

Amy Plitt has a brief chat with Mila Kunis for TONY. Interviews with the Hughes Brothers: Drew McWeeney (Hitfix), Krista Smith (Vanity Fair) and Keith Staskiewicz (Vulture). Charles Koppleman reports on a set visit for the Los Angeles Times. Viewing. James Rocchi talks with the players for MSN Movies.

Update, 1/16: "Is the latest big-budget, blood and guts Hollywood action flick a Christian redemption film?" John Hudson's got a roundup of varying takes on that question in the Atlantic Wire.



Aaron Hillis on Mine in the Voice: "Geralyn Pezanoski's 81-minute doc exposé about dogs displaced during Hurricane Katrina moves slower than a basset hound to get to... thorny questions of responsibility, ownership - and, to a lesser degree, class." But for the NYT's Manohla Dargis, this is "a fine feature debut." More from Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and James van Maanen.

"Of all the martial arts ass-whoopers, Jackie Chan has long been the one you'd feel OK showing your kids," writes Matt Prigge, reviewing The Spy Next Door in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Even at his very seldom R-rated, he's closer to Looney Tunes violence. That's not a knock - his manic set pieces are uniformly breathtaking in their creativity and speed. Chan just happens to be the nicest guy to ever make a career kicking the ever-living snot out of people, studding his tussles with goofy asides, frantic mugging and, in the downtime sections, jokes that could amuse only a toddler." However. "At the very least, you could argue, there’s finally a film that makes The Medallion look watchable. D+"

More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Robert Horton (Herald), Kathleen Murphy (MSN Movies), Michael Phillips (Tribune), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Nick Schager (Slant), AO Scott (NYT), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Stephanie Zacharek (Salon). Online viewing. TONY's Joshua Rothkopf presents "Jackie Chan's five most insane stunts."

Michael Hoffman's The Last Station, featuring Christopher Plummer as Leo Tolstoy and Helen Mirren as his wife Sofya, is back after a run in December. Here's that earlier roundup, to which we can now add reviews from Sam Adams (AV Club), Nick McCarthy (L), Armond White (NYP) and Chris Wisniewski (Reverse Shot).



"A major retrospective for Yasujiro Ozu at London's BFI Southbank [see the entry tracking it] provides exactly the right context for appreciating this moving new film, Hirokazu Kore-eda's Still Walking, which I first saw at the San Sebastian film festival in 2008, and which definitely grows with a second viewing." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw: "It is a 'family movie' in the classic Japanese style, and a variant - offered in an intelligent, if interestingly humble spirit of homage - to Ozu's Tokyo Story. It is as if Kore-eda is the wayward elder son making a bow to the great patriarch."

More from David Jenkins in Time Out London, also featuring an interview with Kore-eda.

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